SportsBiz’s Feuerstein is Leveraging AI to Create Industry Standards for Sports Marketing & Sponsorships
I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Feuerstein, the Founder & Chief Strategy Officer of SportsBizGroup.
Mr. Feuerstein is a thirty-year veteran of the sports marketing industry. Steve began his career in 1990 in Asia with the founding of Sports International, which became the number one sports marketing business in its field for over 12 years in the Republic of China. He owned and managed professional sports events and spearheaded national, regional, and global sports marketing campaigns.
He has generated $1B in sponsorship, media value, and Fortune 500 promotional campaigns. His portfolio of dozens of sports events (ATP, WTA, PGA, AVP, ITTF), several golf tours, and 400 athletes enabled him to gain vast expertise throughout the industry. Among the events was the Hong Kong Golf Championship voted as a Finalist by the Hong Kong Government in its Best Professional Sports Event awards. Additionally, he owned the world’s largest indoor volleyball tournament, the $2.2M World Volleyball Grand Prix.
After staging tournaments and working with leading athletes for a decade, Mr. Feuerstein founded an online sports agency representing several hundred star players throughout the PGA Tour, Premier League, Serie A, Indian Cricket League, and China’s elite competitors in multiple sports. ING Bearings estimated its pre-IPO value at $450 million.
Steve speaks Mandarin Chinese, Hebrew, Spanish, and English. He is completing a Master’s in Data Science from Northwestern University, holds a Masters in Business Administration (International Marketing) from George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) from The University of Vermont.
Steve has four children, is an avid golfer and mountain biker, and resides in New York City.
Thank you so much for joining us!
What motivated you to launch your startup SportsBiz?
I’ve been in the business of professional sports since 1990. Early on I recognized that the majority of my clients — and these were major US, European, and Asian companies — often found the sports sponsorship experience to be challenging and overwhelming.
Today’s market has only become more complex. There are over 15,000 choices — athletes, teams, leagues, associations, stadiums/venues, and events — and it is entirely unrealistic to think that the optimal match can be made without advanced technology that places the power and control in the hands of the brand. With such scope and depth of sports assets, how can the brand even attempt to know which will be the optimal choice?
It’s remarkable to consider that with all the advances in the industry, there really are no definitive industry standards when it comes to sponsorship. Sponsors far too often cede control to 3rd party agencies to satisfy their sports marketing needs. Needless to say, the costs and conflicts of interest have been vast. In many ways it’s like a captain not being at the helm of the ship. SportsBiz’s mission has been to build a first-mover AI-driven software platform that reinvents sports marketing. It’s called DeepSport Solutions. Its algorithm is impacted exclusively by the KPIs of the corporate sponsor and guides the brand to make completely objective actionable decisions. Unlocking the full potential of sports marketing, and thereby increasing the brand’s profits and efficiencies, is what energizes and motivates me to build our software solutions on a daily basis.
What is it that excites you about what you’re building?
It is incredibly energizing to be building a software platform that provides total control of the sponsorship process to the corporate brand. Let’s take one example. The NFL has 41 official sponsors. As a brand, the first question I should ask is, Are we ever going to be able to break through the clutter? And if the answer is yes, then what can we do to stand out before our core target market? Whether it’s matching the brand with the best-fitting sports asset, maximizing its budgetary spend, or measuring the resulting value generated, DeepSport Solutions is all about empowering corporate sponsors to optimize each and every dollar invested throughout the $120B sports marketing ecosystem. It’s deeply gratifying to know that many heads of global brands have already told us that our first go-to-market solution, a TV, Digital, and Social valuation and recommendation engine, will be in high demand due to its disruptive, novel scope. We will be launching it this spring.
What has been your biggest challenge when growing SportsBiz?
Our unique partnership structure can be viewed as both a blessing and a challenge. There are 22 of us in the company. Many members of the team have elite Fortune 500 corporate experience. All of us are founding partners who are willing to work exclusively for equity until funding is secured. We’re willing to do this because of our drive to solve decades-old pain points that sponsors should clearly no longer face. Self-funded to date, we committed ourselves not to rely upon external investor monies in the pre-MVP stage of our company’s development. An additional upside is that we had the opportunity to build strong equity value during this period. Having accomplished so much with so little, we are now beginning a $750,000 raise. While the conservative financial structure of our company has certainly placed restrictions upon us, it has also proved to be an asset in many unexpected ways.
What are your future plans for SportsBiz and its DeepSport Solutions Software Platform?
At this stage it’s all about launching our first solution, raising funds, and marketing and selling DeepSport Solutions to corporate sponsors of all sizes. Our motto at SportsBiz is that we’ll iterate until we exit. There’s never a finished algorithm or product — we’re always going to be evolving our existing products and introducing new ones in the market for as long as we own SportsBiz. Our data science team is already working on our next two advanced solutions that address brands’ national, regional, and local needs concerning social impact and campaign ideation.
If you had to share, “words of wisdom,” with a Founder who’s about to start their own startup, what would they be?
I’d like to offer two insights that I hope will resonate with any new and/or seasoned founder:
1. While you know a great deal about your product, be wary of believing you know it all. Never fear going to your target market to seek truth. What is it that they like and dislike about your vision? Keep top of mind that product and user research is king. And when you do go to speak to prospective clients, request they communicate all that they feel is weak or deficient about your product. Remember that those who tell you that everything you’re doing is great are not your true business allies.
2. When you face major obstacles and privately ask or even doubt yourself as to whether or not you can succeed, you must know you’re solving real pain points and whether your solution is elite in its power to remedy. In short, is it the product or the entrepreneur that’s the problem? If it’s the latter, then yield to others who can manage better and deliver. If it’s the former, then perhaps it’s time to step aside and find a new venture.
How can our readers follow you?
Thank you for asking. I am launching a new weekly program about the business of sports marketing and sponsorship entitled The Transaction Report. The URL is TheTransactionReport.com. By mid-March it will be available on iTunes and Spotify.
I enjoyed our conversation and valued having the opportunity to share my views with you, Jason, as well as with your special network at StrtupBoost.
This was very insightful. Thank you so much for joining us!