Social Startups: Sportlobster Tool Tackles the Unruly Web for Sports Fans

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Social Startups: Sportlobster Tool Tackles the Unruly Web for Sports Fans

The Internet has had a huge impact on sports—from football to fencing. Nearly everything about any sport can be found online. Tweets, videos, blog posts, news articles, status updates, predictions, photos, schedules, results, and web pages, in fact, are overwhelming even the most tech savvy of sports fans. Pity the poor soul who wants to satisfy their passion for a particular sport amid the noise.

One solution is to aggregate all this content and pull out the interesting bits. For example, Kristi Dosh, author of the SportsBizMiss site and newsletter, curates and writes a fascinating assortment of college and professional sports articles.

But what if you wanted to tap the collective minds of dozens or hundreds of devotees of particular topics, from baseball to basketball? Or find all the best information about England right back Kyle Walker who missed the World Cup in Brazil because of an abdominal injury? Where would you go for that?

Sportlobster wants to be that place to help fans keep up with the information blitz.

The Sportlobster app, developed by the London-based startup of the same name, is the fastest-growing sport social network. Fans can predict the outcomes of sporting events they are interested in; write, share, and discuss blog posts with an audience that shares their interests; and connect with like-minded people that care about the same things they do. Those people may be other fans, former Formula One driver Mark Webber, or the most followed athlete in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has more than 29 million followers on Twitter and 96 million likes on Facebook. The company released the first public version of the app for iOS devices in October 2013 through Apple’s App Store.

“The light bulb moment came after I read a blog post about tennis star Novak Djokovic,” says CEO and co-founder Andrew Meikle. “It was a fantastic piece—informative, thought-provoking, and original. However, there wasn’t much interaction or response to the article. I thought, ‘How is the blogger supposed to attract readers?’ From this point, everything clicked and I realized the online experience for sports fans was fragmented. There was one website you visit for scores, another for making predictions, another to read sports news, another to interact online, and so on and so forth. It is even more of a disjointed experience if you are a fan of multiple sports. Essentially, I wanted to create a one-stop shop—a place that accommodates every sports fan and their needs.”

So rather than having to visit multiple sites or apps to get your daily sporting fix, Sportlobster consolidates and customizes the experience to your sport preferences. If you like tennis, for instance, you get a comprehensive experience based around it.

Meikle says PR professionals, marketers, and advertisers are able to engage with their fans more effectively on the platform because every interaction is more relevant. With a 500-character limit on lobs (posts), users can have more in-depth interactions with fans, athletes, teams, and brands.

“Sports fans love a debate, but they have previously been unable to address their point fully when there has only been a small amount of words to play with on other platforms,” says Meikle, who founded Sportlobster with Arron Shepherd. “Our ambassador and soccer star Michael Owen is a regular blogger on Sportlobster and the responses have been fantastic. There is always a huge amount of fan responses, which are passionate, insightful, and on topic—interactions you won’t find elsewhere.  The interactions on Sportlobster have also added relevancy because lobs are directed into Fanzones, which are dedicated pages for your favorite sport, team or athlete, resulting in a feed populated with content you care about.”

Sportlobster plans to monetize in several ways, all of which will complement the user’s experience. As a fan of sports and a four-year soccer scholarship experience at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Meikle says he doesn’t want to see irrelevant and intrusive forms of advertisements spoiling the experience. The platform has introduced a gamification element, which will evolve into a revenue stream. And eventually, other revenue streams will include promoted lobs, merchandise, and ticket sales.

Since launching in April 2013, the startup has released its Android app, grown from three staff members to 46, and reached its biggest milestone—one million users. “We aim to have more sports organizations, clubs, and athletes on the platform soon. I predict that sports fans all over the world, whatever language they speak and whatever sport, team, or athlete takes their interest, will use Sportlobster as its No. 1 destination online.”

So far so good, as Sportlobster was recently announced as the official social media partner of Crystal Palace Football Club, which plays in the Premier League—the most popular football league in the world.

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In Conversation: How Unruly is Studying How We Share

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This post was written by Joe Geoghan

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Unruly, the home of social video insight, hosted a presentation on Wednesday at the Highline Stages, designed to help brands maximize the potential of their video content strategy by using billions of data points to understand what works. Richard Kosinski, the company’s U.S. president, described the raw emotions generated by the most shared videos in the world, saying “Truly great advertising makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It makes your pupils dilate. That’s what we’re looking at.”

Richard also noted that Unruly partners with multiple universities and academic institutions across the globe to analyze the massive amounts of data. After the presentation, I joined fellow Social Media Week Press Corps member Claire Meyer in a conversation with Richard. We asked him about how Unruly benefitted from their relationships with academic institutions. Richard said, “Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania actually helped us with the math [on ShareRank]. Not a bad school to help you with the math! We’re also doing something with Rutgers, looking at understanding social media and marketing…so we’ve been teaching some classes over there as well.”

So, the institutions benefit immensely from the data provided by Unruly, but how does Unruly benefit from the schools? “In the media world that I come from there has been a really big shift to be really grounded in data, because brands demand it and it’s easier to get this type of information. There’s much more of a demand in business for that data, and I think universities are already very well geared to understand that world.“

I asked Richard about his feelings on the new school of marketing students and recent graduates. He said, “It’s fun, you guys are going to take the mantle from us and actually apply all this stuff in ways we never even thought of.”

The potential patterns are there to be uncovered, the behaviors that make us process what see and motivate us to share with one another. All we need to do is look.

Joe Geoghan is a senior at NYU, an associate producer with the Shorty Awards, and the Director of Marketing of the Student Net Alliance. Find his thoughts in 140 characters or less @joegeoghan.

Joe is one of our SMW Press Corps members, managed by OpenCommunications. Learn more here.

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