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How to create your own sports league. The Top 10 most innovative companies in sports.
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Welcome back to Sports Tech Feed! Following the announcement of Gen-Z and millennial sports media company Overtime expanding into boxing, we revisited our 100th podcast episode where we spoke with Overtime Co-Founder and President, Zach Weiner. We also look at the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Sports for 2023.
Overtime - Doing it for the kids
Overtime, founded in 2016, is a new-age media company producing original sports and gaming content targeting a predominantly younger audience (88% are under the age of 35). Most of this content revolves around high school or other amateur players in a short-form content creation and distribution process. Overtime grew out of paying a network of contributors to attend games and upload highlight-style clips in real-time from their mobile devices which are then published on social media platforms and Overtime’s own channels.
Highlights from the next generation of superstars before they’re superstars.
Disrupting basketball and football
In 2021, Overtime took the big step to launch its own sports property: Overtime Elite League (OTE). The Atlanta-based league is an alternative to collegiate sports for athletes aged 16 to 19 years old looking to turn pro. Players earn a minimum of US$100,000 and the league offers full healthcare benefits and a tailored academic curriculum. OTE also offers up to US$100,000 for players to use toward college tuition in the event they don’t make it to the National Basketball Association (NBA) or other professional leagues.
In 2022, they expanded into American football with OT7. This league brings together teams of high school players, including 4-star and 5-star college recruits, to compete in the 7-on-7 football format. The inaugural season had 18 teams play over four days in a group-stage tournament in Las Vegas. Leveraging livestream platforms and their social media channels, Overtime reported the league garnered over 175 million views on its social media accounts (including Instagram and TikTok) and over 30 million engagements. This year OT7 will be expanding to four cities.
Next up: Boxing
This week Overtime announced they’re launching a new competition in boxing, with a four-event series in August on DAZN aimed at developing the next generation of fighters. All four shows will take place on Friday nights at the 1,200-seat Overtime Elite Arena, a tech forwards purpose-built venue in Atlanta.
"One of the gaps that we're seeing in the marketplace is that while Gen Z ... is saying boxing is kind of the No. 4 favorite sport, there's not a lot of storytelling that happens on a 365 basis in boxing… By that I mean video social content. That's what we do best."
— Brandon Rhodes (GM, OTX)
So why launch your own league?
“We’re starting a league from scratch. We don’t have any legacy overhang. We can build a model that feels like a 21st century model both in terms of how start-ups and how digital companies are created.”
— Dan Porter (CEO, Overtime)
Sports has a fundamental challenge of an older legacy audience using legacy channels. The younger generation of digitally native fans are largely consuming content away from linear TV and these same fans have a greater interest in following an individual athlete’s journey rather than a particular team.
Overtime leans heavily into trends of the athlete-first creator economy and short-form digital content, with game highlights accessible on Overtime’s social media accounts, as well as via streaming partners Prime Video for OTE and DAZN for OTX.
Streaming innovations enabling growth
The trend of disruptor “startup leagues” isn’t going away and streaming makes these leagues a much more tangible reality. As we covered recently, broadcast deals (linear and streaming inclusive) are the biggest sources of revenue for sports rights holders globally. As linear TV fights for eyeballs and streaming services refine their offerings, the need for quantity and quality in sports content is growing.
Disruptor leagues can create an entertainment product ready-made for a modern audience unencumbered by legacy considerations of “we’ve always done it this way”.
This is especially true in niche sports. Think Major League Pickleball, Premier League Lacrosse, World Padel Tour, Professional League Fighters, and the American Cornhole League (yes that’s a thing and it carries a $1M prize pool).
There are also more contentious examples for established sports such as LIV Golf, XFL for American Football, and the mooted European Super League in football/soccer. Time will tell the success of these leagues but the cork isn’t going back into the champagne bottle for disruption.
Although OTE is a disruptor league, it still has big-name incumbents in the sponsorship space with major partners like Gatorade, State Farm, GMC, Meta, and Topps. Brands want to connect with that younger demographic and these new sports properties can be an attractive proposition.
Listen to the full conversation of the creation, ideation, and launch of Overtime with Co-Founder Zach Weiner. You can access it via your podcast platform of choice by searching Sports Tech Feed.
What we’re reading: Fast Company: The 10 most innovative companies in sports of 2023
Who doesn’t like a listicle? Fast Company selected the top 10 companies, teams, and leagues that are deploying technology and new content tools to engage fans in bigger and better ways. Our friends at the Famous Group took out the top spot and probably unfairly Overtime didn’t make the list.
1. THE FAMOUS GROUP
Virtual event production company Famous Group is using mixed-reality tech to blur the lines between reality and the metaverse.
Want to learn more about how it all comes together? Listen to our interview with Greg Harvey, Famous Group’s Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer. As always, available on your podcast platform of choice by searching Sports Tech Feed.
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