June 21, 2012
If you thought the wall between sports fans and their favorite athletes was low already, just wait for JockTalk.
Co-founded by Shawn Green, former two-time MLB All-Star and gold glove winner, and Brenden Kensel, co-founder of Salesmation (which was promptly sold to eSynergies), JockTalk is hoping to become the go-to venue for athletes to connect with fans. With an impressive athlete launch roster – including Heath Bell, Adrian Beltre, Aaron Boone, Kevin Love, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Wes Welker, Jonathan Vilma, Warren Moon, Jeremy Roenick, Ryan Kesler, and Logan Couture – the team is already in position to make a big splash upon the public launch of their iPhone app, currently slated for mid-July.
In the opinion of Green and Kensel, the communication on existing platforms, namely Twitter and Facebook, are too one-way. One such example of how JockTalk will be improving upon this is through a Q&A series, which has proven to do very well in beta, according to Green.
Pay to Play
It’s clear why JockTalk is a win for fans, but what’s the incentive for athletes? In a word – money. Athletes share in JockTalk’s overall revenue pool, depending upon activity level and following, which is driven by advertising and sponsorship, content syndication and e-commerce.
A central feature of the JockTalk revenue model is the ease for athletes to donate some or all of their earnings directly to charities. For someone like Green, who donated $1.5 million of his salary to the Dodgers’ Dream Foundation during his six years in LA, working with non-profits is a big selling point of their platform:
“We feel that most athletes will select a non-profit partner on JockTalk. JockTalk enables athletes to promote and raise money for causes they care about. We are launching with about a dozen national charities, and as the company grows, we will allow athletes to submit their own charities/causes to be considered. This is also a great way for the charities the athletes care about to automatically receive monetary support from the athletes and their fans.”
Scouting the Competition
JockTalk isn’t the first player after the athlete’s online identity platform (see: LockerDome). Aside from the impressive list of launch athletes mentioned above, there is plenty that separates JockTalk from other sports-focused social platforms according to Kensel, “Most of our competitors are aggregating third-part content (social feeds, news, etc). JockTalk is differentiated from competitors by its unique content, multi-pronged revenue model, and traffic acquisition leveraging syndication.”
In having been partners at Kensel & Co, an advisory firm specializing in sports marketing and digital media, Kensel and Green already have a good lay of the land. For Kensel, the decision to put his advisory role on hold and pursue JockTalk was a no-brainer. “I recognized that sports fans are frustrated with the lack of engagement tools available to them to engage with their favorite athletes,” and added that athletes too are seeking a more customized platform to reach fans, a sentiment quickly corroborated by Green.
Of Business and Baseball
Standing 60 feet from someone throwing a hard object 95 mph in your general proximity in the company of 50,000+ screaming fans is a feeling I will never know. Curiously, I asked Green of the biggest similarities between professional baseball and the startup life. He offered the following:
In my case, getting up to the plate. In both you will have hot streaks and cool streaks, but the key is to be disciplined and keep pursuing your goal. I am enjoying the challenge of translating athletic discipline to business discipline.
JockTalk is based out of Newport Beach, CA and received approximately $650,000 to-date from Green and Kensel and a few tech investors and professional athletes. The group is in the midst of closing out a $1.5 million convertible note round.
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