By Clint Vojdinoski, Editor at Bullpen Media
A trio of former sports administrators and marketing executives have banded together as they saw an opportunity to get fans closer to their favourite athletes and clubs in an engaging, experience driven way.
Co-founder Rod Harys, former CEO of the National Basketball League’s Sydney Kings, and his fellow co-founders Aaron Warburton and Kirill Litovchenko have developed Fan+, a platform where fans can buy and request unique sporting experiences with clubs and individual athletes.
According to Harys the problem he saw was that crowds began to stagnate at sporting events and he felt a platform was necessary to get fans feeling closer to a particular club or athlete.
Having been a participant in the Qantas AVRO accelerator program earlier this year, Fan+ has now been publicly launched in Australia.
We spoke to Harys about the platform he’s building and the company’s outlook for 2019.
Can you describe the gap in the market that saw with fans bidding and buying experiences with athletes and celebrities?
Rod Harys: “Having worked in sports for over 15 years, I felt that there were a lot of sporting clubs which are under resourced and even more of a problem most clubs lose money or face losses each year. It’s a way to generate a new revenue stream by connecting fans with sporting clubs and athletes directly.”
With your sports administration background, you were CEO of the NBL’s Sydney Kings, you must have a lot of insider views of clubs struggling for alternative revenue streams?
RH: “I have certainly seen it and it’s quite publicly noted in the media a lot of sporting clubs face challenges and funding cuts. If there’s a way to help clubs and athletes to generate an additional revenue stream via an experience that’s where the idea came to light in creating centralised marketplace for all sports to list a unique experience for fans to purchase.”
Describe the kinds of partnerships that Fan+ has been developing, is it club or individually focussed?
RH: “It’s a combination, we’ve got about 14 various clubs currently across different sports and individual athletes. We’re continuing to sign up new clubs each week and expand our roster of athletes if they’re current, retired or legends of the game on the platform.
“We’re also looking at expanding internationally. We’ve just signed the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks as a partner. With the Mavericks we’ll be able to offer unique courtside experiences at Mavericks games.”
You’re already thinking about overseas expansion?
RH: “Considering the numbers in the United States and the amount of sporting clubs they have over there, I feel there is an opportunity to grow internationally. But even thinking outside of sports, going into the entertainment space, that’s where we also see a huge opportunity and we’re already starting to gain some traction in that area with personalities and celebrities in the entertainment industry. That’s where we feel that our next phase of the market where we’ll move into the entertainment space.
“As we evolve, we’ll keep looking at new market segments that may have an interest to our fans.”
It’s an interesting move to expand outside of sports. I’ve noticed that you do offer those types of experiences, could you say that you’re an experience platform not just a sports fan platform?
RH: “Oh definitely, we certainly are an experience platform but one that is focussed on sports and entertainment so that’s where we feel that our experience as founders is certainly targeted towards and that’s where we have a lot of personal and long-term relationships in those spaces to be able to penetrate those markets quite quickly and effectively.”
The platform is solving a particular problem other than clubs losing money, it’s the other problems that this platform could solve in terms of giving really cool experiences to people.
RH: “The engagement piece is a big one. Athletes themselves have all got a fan base and sometimes when they do retire some of them go through a tough time because they’re out of the limelight, but they obviously have built a very strong fan base over the years and this is a way for them to continue that engagement and interaction with their fans.”
You’re backed by an initial 500,000 dollars investment. How will the investment be used?
RH: “First it will help us to scale the business, a lot of branding and PR promotional spend will be a part of that process but also building out the team in 2019 and really scaling it at the speed to market.”
Regarding speed to market, what are ideal goals or growth targets you’d hope to achieve through 2019?
RH: “We want to be known as the number one sporting entertainment destination for experiences in Australia.”
Personally what’s your ideal sports fan experience? Something where you’d go, ‘I’d pay good money for that?’
RH: “A hit out with Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal.”
That’s a really good one actually! It feels almost unattainable having that really massive experience. So are you already being flooded with requests at the moment? If you have been getting any requests, is there a pattern or anything that has become prominent to what people are asking for?
RH: “We’ve had requests for more cricket and rugby content, plus we’re increasingly getting requests for motor racing content. For us it’s about building out sporting channels that we haven’t got much inventory on because the plan is to have a nice broad range across a lot of sports.”
Clint Vojdinoski – Bullpen
Bullpen is a publisher of sports business, digital, technology, data and intelligence. Our mission is to spotlight who and what is shaping the Australian sporting industry.
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