Today, Y Combinator Summer 2012 startup Sponsorfied launches its tool that connects and manages the relationship between brands and the events or influencers they want to sponsor. See, we’re all trained to ignore ads, but get your product in our hands or enhance a real life experience for us and we won’t forget you.
Top brands like Red Bull, Task Rabbit, and popchips are the first clients in the Sponsorfied private beta now that it’s out of stealth. By sorting out the mess of sponsorship management and installing feedback loops, Sponsorfied could make sure the next event you attend has a lot more free clothes, liquor, and food. You know, more fun.
An Industry Aching For Disruption
Sponsorship is a huge business the startup estimates, around $56 billion a year by the startup’s estimate, and spend keeps increasing. But it’s also grossly inefficient. Brands want to find events or influencers they’re target demographics attend or care about. Events and influencers (sponsees) have the attention of their attendees / readers / followers but need free products to delight them and money to pay for production.
For example, TechCrunch has its Disrupt conference in San Francisco from September 8-12. We’ve got lots of powerful tech people attending and want to hook them up with food, drink, and swag. Meanwhile there’s plenty of liquor, snack, and enterprise IT companies out there who’d love to reach our crowd.
Right now, most sponsorships are managed over phone and email. Brands and their marketing agencies are inundated with requests for sponsorship, but the inquiries often lack the necessary details. Plus, sponsors have little way of knowing the reputation of who they’d be paying or sending free product to. Neither know who’s available on the other side so its tough for brands and sponsees relevant to each other to get linked up.
How It Works, And Who’s Gonna Make It Happen
Sponsorfied wants to disrupt this whole flow by handling everything over specially designed software that handles:
- The initial connection between sponsors and sponsees by cobbling together a list of who’s interested and relevant
- Communication between the two parties through standardized forms
- Negotiations of what a sponsorship entails
- Back and forth on contracts
- Payment processing
- Evidence the sponsorship was carried out in the form of attendee lists, photos, videos, tweets
- Feedback from the sponsee on the success of execution
- Quality ratings of the sponsee by the sponsor that help the next brand make their choice
Sponsorfied’s co-founder and CEO Cullen Wilson tells me it plans to charge brands between 10% and 20% of what they pay and possibly a monthly licensing fee for the software. That means it only needs 10% to 20% of the market to become a billion dollar company. That’s a lot of behavior to change, though, so Sponsorfied will have to prove its software can cut down on staffing costs and produce more influential partnerships.
The Sponsorsfied team of four co-founders is young, but has relevant experience and these guys are seriously fired up about the space. CEO Wilson previously co-founded a secure and speedy blog hosting platform called WordPress Engine. CTO Stuart Ross was lead developer for news site The Daily Dot as wells technical co-founder of TradeSparrow and MailKart.
Baldwin Cunningham was a brand manager for the Zehnder ad agency, and David Matthews was co-founder of Spreadsy along with Ross. Sponsorfied has also brought on Rita Kanamkalam as VP of biz dev, a six-year marketing agency brand manager for companies like Smirnoff, Tylenol, and Citibank. She’s already helped bring companies like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Hype Machine on board.
The squad has spent the last six months identifying the pain points of everyone in the business. They found potential clients experiencing massive friction trying to cobble together tools like emails, spreadsheets, Basecamp, and PayPal He tells me “We’ve learned from brands like PopChips that they receive hundreds of sponsorship requests per day. We’re going to help them filter the inundation, and then provide tools to manage the entire sponsorship process, all in one place. If you tried to do all of that through email it would be total chaos”
Between ad-blocking software and our ability to tune out the little boxes all over the Internet, brands need to step their game up and Sponsorfied could help. With any luck, better communication will lead to richer sponsorships where instead of pimping out their names, brands actually solve our problems.