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Serena Williams backs this female-led sports tech startup with more than $1M funding

OpenSponsorship CEO
Image credits: OpenSponsorship

Female-founded and New York-based sports marketing tech start-up, OpenSponsorship, has just recently announced receiving a seven-figure backing from sports and female icon, Serena Williams.

This investment is aimed at fuelling OpenSponsorship’s expansion into the UK and is topped by other investors including David Blitzer, the owner of the NBA franchise, the Philadelphia 76ers and co-owner of the Premier League football club, Crystal Palace. OpenSponsorship is also announcing that it has hired Charlie Turner, a former Team GB swimmer and co-founder of the award-winning plant protein brand Neat Nutrition, as Head of UK.  He will assist in guiding the business and attracting new athletes & brands to the platform in the UK.

How does OpenSponsorship work?

OpenSponsorship is a double-ended marketplace for sports sponsorship. The platform firstly hosts a database that presents profiles from over 40 countries and 50 different sports to Brand Managers.

Additionally, OpenSponsorship employs a functionality similar to recruiting, allowing brands to search, connect and sponsor opportunities in the professional sports sponsorship landscape. Brands create an account on OpenSponsorship and pick a subscription plan. Then they can search through a database of athletes, teams and events, filtering down to those that fit a need, like social media, logo placement or appearance. Brands then create a campaign and either choose an athlete or let OpenSponsorship do the work. Eventually, the brand can launch and measure the success of its campaign by analysing the ROI.

“Brand sponsorship is vital to an athlete’s career and OpenSponsorship is giving them more control and ownership over that process. But this is also something that businesses will benefit from,” remarked Serena Williams, Managing Partner of Serena Ventures. “I love the fact that this platform puts supporting athletes at the core of its business and am proud to be a part of their journey as an investor.”

About the female-led sports tech

OpenSponsorship was founded in 2015 by Ishveen Anand and Ronneil Nesbitt. Ishveen serves as the CEO whereas Ronneil is the lead developer. Ishveen who in the past was a sports agent realised and then grew frustrated with the obtuse and restrictive path athletes took to be able to access brands for sponsorship. Since then, the company has grown to be the largest marketplace matching brands and athletes for marketing campaigns. With a network of over 12,000 professional athletes and 100s of brands completing thousands of deals, including Instagram stories by NFL champions, TikTok videos by NBA rookies and appearances by Olympians, just to mention a few. The platform has partnered athletes with campaigns from brands such as Walmart, Foot Locker and Levi’s, just to mention a few. By year-end 2021, the business had facilitated more than 10,000 deals across 400 brands, reaching $5M in top-line revenue.

The company has previously received backing from top names in sports and investing such as executives from WWE and Excel Sports Management, Jeffrey Talpins, NHL player Alex Killorn, and Nike director Shaherose Charania.

“Since launch, we have been lucky enough to receive investment from some of the most iconic names in the US sporting industry and with Serena at the heart of this Serena Ventures investment, we couldn’t be more excited. To have the support of those who understand the sports and marketing industry from first-hand experience tells us that we’re building something special. The UK market has matured in recent years and as more brands and athletes in the UK become more aware of the benefits of a streamlined sponsorship process, we’re excited to be in place to welcome them to our platform.” stated OpenSponsorship CEO Ishveen Anand.

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