Ishveen Anand: CEO and Founder OpenSponsorship - Work In Sports Podcast

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning at and this is the Work In Sports podcast.

When I was growing up in the Boston area, I used to get a kick out of the regional ads with the local sports stars.

Dwight Evans would be reading an ad for the local Chevy dealer and it would be hilariously terrible. 

You can picture these guys showing up, never reading the script, and then trying to read a cue card being held by some poor intern above the camera.

The local sports star would have their eyes clearly above the camera, they’d be reading at a very poor level and there would be some terrible dad joke at the end.

"Hello everyone… I am… Red Sox right fielder...Dwight Evans, and you should head down to Bob’s chevrolet in Chicopee and check on the deals they’ve got for  a brand new 1985 Chevy ...Blazer. 

We’ve got all different shades of my sox."

And then they’d smile some toothy grin and still not be looking at the camera. You knew this was like the 20th take and finally, the producer just said “Oh F it, that’s good enough, it’s a wrap”

These cracked me up… and I wish they still happened as often as they used to when I was 10. We’d literally imitate them in gym class, a bunch of 5th-grade kids making fun of our local idols for reading with less aptitude and personality than we did.

This was a big deal for the athletes back in the day… they made really good money back then, but nothing like what they do today. Salaries have far outpaced inflation, so the borderline Hall of Fame players don’t need to peddle the local furniture store for a free couch and 5k. 

It was a lot of work, which more often than not resulted in a crappy advertisement that likely didn’t help the business or the player’s brand.

Things have changed. Thankfully for the better, although I really miss those old ads. 

So how have things changed -- well, social is a huge part of it. Today’s athletes grew up with it, are comfortable on the platforms, have their own brands, and can share their own voice directly to their followers.

Plus, we have more and more brands telling themselves -- wait, I make a vegan snack bar, and I’m sure there is an athlete out there who is vegan… maybe we should partner up?

This idea of hyper-targeting in alignment with a specific athlete makes all the sense in the world because they’ll speak to the product with more enthusiasm and expertise, than just some rando talking about a chevy blazer in red, when they drive a Porsche.

This extra targeting, this emphasis on social, this idea to connect brands and athletes  -- sparked something deep within today’s guest.

Ishveen Anand is the founder and CEO of OpenSponsorship,  a platform that has created a smarter, simpler approach to sponsorship marketing. Allowing brands to connect with 5000+ athletes, engage with their target audience, increase ROI and generate great content.

She was also named Forbes 30 under 30 in 2015, and to INC top 100 female founders list in 2019 -- she’s as impressive as they come, so without further ado… here’s Ishveen Anand, straight from her office in New York’ll understand why I mentioned that in a few minutes when you hear fire alarms and police sirens in the background…


Questions for Ishveen Anand, CEO and Founder OpenSponsorship


1: I’m really excited to speak with you about your organization OpenSponsorship…but first I want to understand you and your motivation a little better.

You attended Oxford, graduate with a degree in economics and management, and your career skyrockets, in fact, you’re a CEO within about 5 years of graduating.

And then, you launch OpenSponsorship.

What was your mindset during this time -- did you always have this goal of “someday I’m going to start my own thing…” or did it happen more organically where you saw an opportunity and just went for it?

2:  I’m seeing more and more high-level sports executives who come from an Economics background, which seems somewhat unconventional in the sports world. From your perspective, why does having a background in economics fit really well in the sports industry?

3: One of your first jobs in sports was in business development for Commune Sports and Entertainment where sponsorship was a big part of your role. Clearly this experience played a role in your future decision to start OpenSponsorship. Why? What happened at this time that made you think – there is a bigger opportunity here.

4: I interviewed Dan Rossetti, a highly successful sports recruiter, on the podcast last year and I asked him “what are the hardest roles for you to fill?” -- and without even a slight pause he said, “sponsorship sales”.

What is your take on this, why is sponsorship such a difficult task?Ishveen Anand opensponsorship work in sports podcast

5: How would you describe the main skills necessary for someone to thrive on this side of the industry? If these roles are vitally important, directly connected to massive revenue opportunities, but it’s hard to find talented people to do it… what are the main skills that are needed, yet missing?

6: Ok, now let’s pivot into the specifics of OpenSponsorship – explain the product, but please also explain how this helps solve the inherent problems and difficulties with sponsorship deals.

7: Now here is where I get hung up in the entrepreneurial world: You have this idea, it clearly fills a need, one that you have professional experience with, but to make it work you need athletes, you need brands, you need organizations and rights holders. You need others to buy into what you are providing.

You have over 5,000 athletes on your platform now, but you didn’t then when you first got started. How did you build this concept with enough human relationships to make the product viable?

8: I see OpenSponsorship and it almost feels like a dating website, where you match needs and wants between two parties and find a connection that fits your budget and objectives. Well, I guess most dating websites don’t discuss a budget…but you get the idea.

Is it over-simplifying it to think of OpenSponsorship as a matchmaker in the sports business world?

9: I read this line regarding OpenSponsorship and it really stood out to me “We are democratizing sponsorship by making it accessible, efficient and data-driven.”

I love this – it’s to the point and easy to digest for simpletons like me�� but let’s dig into that data-driven side. Not every organization has huge marketing or sports sponsorship budget to bring Tom Brady on to help sell their brand.

How are you able to show value and ROI to smaller brands who use your platform?

10: Following up on that – we often think of sponsorship deals as massive agreements between the Golden State Warriors and Rakuten, or the Boston Red Sox and Dunkin Donuts – but are there much smaller deals, that involve local or regional brands and maybe younger or lesser-known athletes?

11: Can any brand benefit from having an athlete endorser, or are there certain brands it makes more sense for?

12: So let’s use this podcast as a quick case study -- if we were looking for a naming sponsor for our podcast, in your opinion do we only look at the obviously sports connected brands out there…or are matches that happen across verticals?

13: We’ll finish up with this – you have clearly changed the dynamic in sponsorship sales and created an open marketplace for profitable connections to be made… where do we go from here? How does this side of the business grow and change in the future?

I hope you could hear my admiration throughout that interview -- I’ve personally gone the entrepreneur route and it is not easy. I’ve failed at it, Ishveen is thriving. I’m more than impressed, I’m inspired.

Thanks for listening everyone, two more great interviews lined up for next week… we’re crushing January with all of your help! Keep downloading, sharing, and giving us positive reviews wherever you listen… it helps, and I really appreciate it!

Alright, get back to work…

By Brian Clapp | January 08, 2020
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