We’re excited to announce our $35 million growth capital investment in SponsorUnited, the global leader in sports and entertainment sponsorship intelligence. In less than four years, the Company has amassed a library of more than 1 million sponsorship and media partnerships across 250k brands and properties, as well as robust contact information on the most critical decision-makers in the sponsorship ecosystem.
Today, the Company serves 1,500 brands and properties in over 25 countries. Clients include Fortune 500 brands, talent and brand agencies, media companies, every major sports league, and all but five professional teams from the five major United States leagues (NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS). The business has more than 11 thousand total users; its more than one thousand most active power-users, who log in daily, spend an average of 29.7 minutes in the product each day.
This partnership is the latest in a long-standing theme of backing distinctive vertical-data and information assets here at Spectrum. Having known and tracked the business for nearly four years, we are thrilled to welcome Bob Lynch and the team to our portfolio. In the significant time we’ve spent cultivating a relationship with the SponsorUnited team, we noticed the recurrence of a few core themes that underpin our enthusiasm for this business and its forward potential.
Sports sponsorships are proliferating across the marketing landscape at a quickening pace. You don’t need market reports to tell you that. You can see it any time you enter a stadium or turn on the broadcast of a game or event; there are logos on every surface, ‘presenting sponsor’ announcements at every commercial and brands wallpapering all the visual space. With more than $25 billion spent on sports sponsorships in the US alone last year, this spend category is large and expanding.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the complexity and number of assets being bought and sold in this sector is also rising. With the introduction of new ‘inventory’ (such as digital and virtual signage versus static graphics in-venue, introduction of jersey patches, the rise of TikTok collaborations, etc.), the ‘rate sheets’ for what rights-holders can monetize is getting longer, more complex, and more granular. Today, the Company tracks over 5 million data points on more than 500 asset types, each of which then contain thousands of “activation” examples.
Here is a sample of a few assets tracked by the Company (warning: we now have a hard time “unseeing” these sponsorships every time we watch a live event!)
Meanwhile, sports are becoming an increasingly strategic category of live media. For many individuals, athletic broadcasts are among the few – or perhaps the only – media they consume synchronously and watch commercials throughout. For marketers, this means that sports is a dependable source of audience engagement amid evermore fragmented consumption, prompting more focus and meriting greater consideration and increased allocation of ad dollars.
All this, at the same moment that marketers across every industry are being prompted to evaluate signal-value of their budget allocations in a spend-tightening environment.
Like so many of the most compelling founders we have partnered with over the years at Spectrum, Bob Lynch launched his business from a wellspring of deep domain expertise. Having started his career in Sports Radio at Entercom, Bob went on to manage sponsorship revenue for Clear Channel and the marketing of sponsorship deals for the Miami Dolphins & Sun Life Stadium as well as BSE Global (Barclays Center, Brooklyn Nets).
Leveraging what he deeply understood about the industry, Bob set out –after ten years in the sponsorship space – to build the data and research tool he wished he could have bought as a customer. This industry expertise extends beyond the C-Suite and throughout the Company, where employees well-tenured in the sponsorship and media industries serve as a critical source of differentiated IP and human capital. For example, more than half of the sales team today is comprised of individuals who were either former users or former Scouts for the Company.
At its core, the SponsorUnited platform is created and designed to get the most relevant data into the hands of folks making sponsorship deals most efficiently. And use cases are expanding seemingly daily. It could be a marketer researching how competitors activate in stadiums or perhaps evaluating the purchase of a new film festival asset as part of annual budget. It could be a partnerships leader at a media company creating a proposal for a longtime partner or a sales rep for a collegiate team prospecting and researching potential sponsors. Or it could be a sales rep at a professional team prospecting, researching, and contacting potential brand partners. In each instance, the product – built by Bob and other sports and media industry vets – is designed with its user at the forefront.
As with some of our leading information services and data businesses historically, SponsorUnited has cultivated, refreshed, and expanded a vast repository of information by both automated and manual means. The Company continues to invest in technology to scale and replicate the processes by which sponsorship data is tracked but, importantly, also leverages the expertise, time, and keen eye of its network of ‘Scouts’.
If you’ve attended any sort of sports game or media event this past year, chances are good that you unknowingly shared the stadium or venue with a SponsorUnited “Scout”. These Scouts serve not just as ‘boots on the ground’ to aggregate the myriad brand activations in-venue that are difficult to pick up by radio or television broadcast, but also to feed relevant, timely visual data into the Company’s library and back-end to create a comprehensive view of sponsorship assets. This “in-venue brand activations data” harvested by Scouts over a period of years represents a hard-to-replicate data asset that serves as the core of the Company’s IP.
We think the company’s creative and efficient approach to aggregating relevant information is critical in building the definitive single-source-of-truth resource on sponsorship data, and one that is trusted by all key industry constituents. Open-source data business models have long been a focus area for us and have led to successful partnerships with businesses such as Definitive Healthcare, RainKing, Pictometry, Datassential, and more. And we are particularly thrilled to share that the CEOs and Founders of several of those businesses have joined us in participating in this investment into SponsorUnited.
In conjunction with the investment, Chris Mitchell will be joining the Company’s Board as a Director, as will Emily Calkins as an Observer.
We are thrilled be working alongside the entire SponsorUnited team in this next phase of the Company’s growth and expansion!