Podcast Alert: Christy Hedgpeth & Michael Schreiber – Playfly Sports
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Christy Hedgpeth – President of Playfly Sports Properties – and Michael Schreiber – Founder & CEO of Playfly – are the guests for our first ever double interview.
They discuss Playfly’s role in the marketplace, and its position among the competition. Michael explains how their goal is to provide a national sales network, as well as best-in-class technology and innovation, to teams and clubs at the local level.
Christy provides further detail on how Playfly Sports Properties is advancing the MMR space for collegiate and high school clients.
1:35 – Breaking down Playfly Sports
18:00 – Christy’s background as a national champion
23:25 – Mike’s background at Hulu and beyond
30:00 – Differentiating Playfly from the competition
35:45 – What’s next
46:15 – Rapid Fire Questions
[00:00:00] Michael Schreiber: We’ve got this whole new category of opportunities to go after because the student athlete as an influencer market is opening up new brand categories. So it’s a really interesting time to be a multimedia rights provider. Not because somehow there’s, money’s going to flow this way and that way. No, it’s because we’re actually going to grow the pie together and we’re going to create more value for the whole ecosystem, including the athletes themselves.
[00:00:46] AJ Maestas: Hello, and welcome to the Navigating Sports Business Podcast. I’m your host AJ Maestas, Founder of Navigate, a data-driven consulting firm, guiding major strategies and decisions in sports and entertainment. We started this podcast hoping to share the [00:01:00] interesting stories and experiences of the amazing people we get to work with.
And even though they’re visionaries and famous in many instances, their true stories aren’t often heard since they’re not on the playing field. Our hope is you get to know them better and learn from them as we have
Today, I’m happy to be joined by Playfly sports, Founder and CEO, Michael Schreiber and President, christy Hedgpeth thank you for joining me.
[00:01:31] Christy Hedgpeth: Thank you so much
[00:01:32] Michael Schreiber: Excited to be here.
[00:01:35] AJ Maestas: Yeah, I’m excited to learn about your business honestly, you know I see you making news in a bunch of different ways, but the truth is, I have to plead a little bit of ignorance so I’m going to enjoy this.
And also it’s our first time with two guests. So we’ll see how this goes. I’m excited. And if you don’t mind me starting it that way, cause it’s always hard to know. Founder and CEO versus President, how is it that you two collaborate together?
[00:01:54] Michael Schreiber: Sure. Sure. Yeah. So I just help out around here and Christy runs everything.
We [00:02:00] have multiple businesses under the Playfly Sports umbrella. We’re really set up to focus on we have our, our pro businesses. We have our college, we have high school, we have esports and then we have our tech and digital businesses. So really the way we think about, you know, the company is focused on each of those different categories.
They have different elements to them that change based on that category. Christy is one of our top executives who runs the P and L for the college and the high school visits for Playfly Sports. We call that Playfly Sports Properties is the division name. So they get that. Was that a good answer Christy?
[00:02:35] Christy Hedgpeth: Dead on. And it’s been awesome for me to to get to work with Mike, you know, and, and this is genuinely how I feel is that he is an incredible resource for me as a business leader for our sports properties division, because he just is such a strategic thinker. And he’s just got so many ideas and he can connect so many different thoughts.
And I just really, it’s a huge benefit for me. To [00:03:00] learn from him and to be able to bounce things off of him.
[00:03:03] Michael Schreiber: I’ve got a mutual admiration talking about Christina.
[00:03:07] AJ Maestas: Well, we’re going to talk about Christy plenty no question. But those words are really meaningful that those are visionary statements, right.
Which, you know, people often ask, you know, how can I be an entrepreneur? You know, that connecting of the dots. Right. And seeing around the corner what’s coming next. So cool. That, that is such a statement, Christy. I appreciate that. Just to frame up the business for me before we dive in. The multimedia rights business which Christy is running, let’s think collegiate, high school multimedia rates.
How does that compare to the overall universe? You know, I always think of Home Team Sports and because we just have a bit of a history with them. I didn’t actually even know about the esports stuff you’re doing. I don’t know if you’re able to sort of draw a pie chart for me on the importance and or financial size of these businesses relative to one another.
[00:03:48] Michael Schreiber: It may make sense to take one step back about the, sort of the vision behind the business because it’ll help describe where we are today. But our goal was really the white space we solved was an opportunity to help sports organizations [00:04:00] tap into network effect and scale effect. So we really saw this opportunity where, whether it was a college athletic department, whether it was a pro team, whether it was a high school state association, to be able to tap into significant, national and sponsorship revenue, and be able to tap into technology at scale.
And to really drive new innovations in all of those levels in a way that potentially they aren’t able to do based on the fragmentation of the sports industry. Because if we really think about sports, sports is inherently local, the fan passionate is that the local. And the teams are at the local level, even a pro team, in theory, if you look at the full makeup of the revenue and the size of the number of employees, it’s a small to medium sized business in this country. So if you think about that and you think about, okay, well, how do we get exponential growth? How do we tap into all of these new innovations and technologies?
Well, a lot of the teams rely on their league or their conference. So we wanted [00:05:00] to build an organization that can actually. Give the opportunity for all these organizations to tap into all of our resources, tap into our national sales, tap into our technology, to tap into our innovation. So we actually went about doing that starting in college.
J and that’s really what our, you know, our original lifeblood was with college business. The college MMR business that’s still so ingrained in us as a core part of our business and the growth area, one of the, one of the key growth areas for us going forward. That same model is coming true.
We’re bringing these new technologies, we’re bringing these new thoughts and significant national sales. We’re actually the leader today, didn’t bring sports betting to the college athletic space and structured a number of deals across conferences. First in the SEC, first in the Big 10, a whole bunch of really interesting opportunities that have been helping drive new categories of innovation and revenue.
You know, so we’d been proving this over and over again, since, since we started. Now, our brand’s young, just to be clear, Playfly [00:06:00] Sports is a two year old brand. But a lot of the businesses that we’ve bought to create this vision, have been in these businesses for 20, 30 years. So we’re not new to the space. We just have a new name.
[00:06:11] AJ Maestas: That’s interesting and helpful. The technology and some of those other things to bring to scale.
I get that when I see that, I think that Learfield’s had reasonable success with some of the complimentary things that they’ve put into their sort of suite of sort of business offerings. So don’t feel it. I don’t want you to feel like I’m picking you up on you. And as far as national sales and maybe Christy, you have a viewpoint on this since the multimedia rights business is yours, but I’m really skeptical and no doubt with Home Team right.
There’s no doubt with the RSN business. Those guys have done an amazing job of selling nationally, you know, sourcing those deals and selling across the RSN network. But I’m really skeptical of the multimedia rights space that people are bringing value-adding deals, you know, like there’s all these stories about national deals, cannibalizing local deals.
Cause they get treated as on a media basis right? The CPM was lower on the deals. These are I’m referring to Learfield’s national sales efforts. Do you genuinely believe the multimedia rights business [00:07:00] can be successful in that same Home Team Sports sort of national let’s call it called unwired network sales?
[00:07:06] Christy Hedgpeth: I really do think that we’re optimally structured and positioned above the competitive set. Basically, you know, Mike talked about our Home Team Sports sales efforts and the depth and the quality of our relationships with, with national brands because we already have. A very, very robust business where we built these relationships.
So we’re not going out just to build them for our college properties, they, these are already preexisting, really valuable established relationships and we’re trusted. And so what we do is include, you know, collegiate and high school state associations among our portfolio of offerings as a company, Playfly Sports.
And even though in some ways Playfly Sports Properties often gets the most attention because it’s, it’s MMR it’s, it’s kind of sexy and interesting. You know, the Home Team Sports business is very, very large and very robust. And so what we do is we [00:08:00] look for ways to provide solutions for these national brands.
And it’s not a forced sale. It’s nothing that’s compromised. It compliments their other business with us as a company. So we do have successes and it’s to your point, though, it is not an easy needle to thread. For the reasons that you talked about, but that’s really where I think our insistence on innovation and thinking differently and being strategic really comes through.
And it is something that we’re going to continue to drive. And we have more and more, more upside, you know, specifically with all of our properties. It’s maybe a little bit easier for sometimes for a a national brand. Be enticed by maybe some of the larger universities and brands, but we feel really excited and competent about our entire portfolio.
And that’s what we continue to work on.
[00:08:44] Michael Schreiber: I’ll just add one other layer to, to what Christy was mentioning, which is when you take the collective inventory that we have. Having all the NBA live games, all the NHL live games, all the MLB live games, [00:09:00] exclusively TV, digital, et cetera, and be able to drive.
I mean, we’re, we’re probably the largest national sales, independent national sales organization in the country. So just to give you a sense of scale, we don’t really release those numbers specifically, but for baseball, we’re actually probably the largest seller of baseball media in the world. Just to give you a sense.
So that funnel, the ability to talk to all those advertisers. We have the top 2000 sports advertisers in the country buying something from us already. So it’s pretty amazing to be able to have those conversations. So let me give you a sense. We take those conversations and we built new businesses off of them.
So we now have a pro sponsorship business where we sell in venue, for pro teams obviously Christy runs our college business. That’s one of our fastest growing large businesses. We have a high school multimedia rights business that is growing significantly. Actually, there was a number of people inside our organization that actually even [00:10:00] created that concept originally years back.
To get us on this trajectory that we have in high school. So we take all of those elements and we’re able to put it in front of those top 2000 advertisers and create really interesting deals. I’ll just give you one example, just, I don’t want to dominate the, this topic specifically. I know you have more questions AJ.
One example is, and we just got written up in Adweek about this about both our BMW deal and our Take 5 deal. But just to give you the example, we just did this deal with one of the top advertisers, Take 5 they own a bunch of oil and lube type franchise different brands that are across the country.
We did a deal, 11 markets, it had MLB, it had NBA, it had NFL, it had college all in one deal. One person. One transaction for the advertisers, simplicity for the advertiser, we did all the execution of fulfillment, it had on air, it had digital, it had in venue and a number of different elements, all included in [00:11:00] that one, one deal.
There is no organization that I’m aware of that can do a deal like that outside of Playfly Sports.
[00:11:07] AJ Maestas: Well, I’m really glad you shared that, actually, because I think it’s really important because I don’t think people know this, your statement, largest seller of baseball, largest independent sales ever in sports, right.
Maybe in the world for better or worse. You know, I don’t think that’s known. You can strike this from the record, by the way. You know, I’m not using information I got proprietarily from you all, but you just said 2000 brand partners, I’m thinking 700 million plus in sales, when you count all those RSN and media sales, and then, you know, the multimedia rights business.
I think this is a pretty key point of differentiation for your business. If you can truly turn those into national partnerships in the multimedia rights space. As I said earlier, I’m skeptical. I think it’s overstated. What percent of deals and other, you know, your competitors are actually national deals versus, State Farm’s a client of ours for many years.
They were doing many college deals long before the national sales concept existed and they will continue to do so. And so is that really found money coming to me as a property because I’m [00:12:00] your partner because you have a national sales network, or were they going to find university XYZ anyway, like if you’re willing maybe not to to put you on the spot again, Christy, but I would love, you know, the prediction of what percent of sales, I’m a multimedia rights partner of yours.
If you were in high school or university, what percent of sales am I going to receive because of this national sales network, that I wouldn’t have otherwise found through my local sellers?
[00:12:23] Christy Hedgpeth: Well we really are really careful about making promises specifically around, you know, percent of national deals, et cetera.
What we do is we do what’s best for our clients. What’s best for the universities. I think what you’ll see it growing because as we coalesce as an organization that Mike talked about, we’re going to be honing and refining our ability to tell the college narrative, the high school narrative you know, for our partners among our national brands.
And so I think you’ll see that increasing over time and you know, it is hard to put a specific you know, percentage on [00:13:00] it. But I think it’s something that is, is clearly a differentiator for us. It’s something that, to your point, that prospective partners and current partners are asking a lot about, and it’s that commitment that we make to them that, that we will definitely prioritize them as much as we possibly can with those national
[00:13:18] Michael Schreiber: Yeah. And I’ll, I’ll just to that, we’ve actually flipped the bit on price it’s so usually local prices tend to be higher and if you’re to do a national deal, not just talking about college MMR, but in general, in the media and in sponsorship space. But it’s interesting when you think about that and having to ask a local team to take up a price, that’s lower.
That’s not our goal. We’ve flipped the bit, actually we’ve been able to actually, because of our size. In the industry and the ability to have access to all this inventory, we actually drive higher prices from our national deals typically, which is wild. So, so actually that’s bringing more value back to all of our partners in a different [00:14:00] way that I don’t think it was ever been seen before in like a multimedia right space or really any sponsorship categories. So it’s a really interesting change for us that we’ve been driving and we use data. And we use our, our research team, which not only obviously supports our internal teams and what they do. And we also sell and drive, you know, research sales and similar in a way that you do AJ for your, your amazing business at Navigate.
But we, we actually can help understand exactly how we’re going to. Price our products. We have, we have tools and technology that not only look at our inventory and actually we’re investing more and more in these tools going forward to be able to actually figure out how to optimize price how to put the right inventory in front of the right advertisers, how to understand and deconstruct, but the span of the fandom that not only we’re selling, but the fandom that the advertisers are interested.
And put all those pieces together using you know, data infused decision-making at PlayFly Sports, so that’s a really important element for us as well. We’re not just pushing you know, low cost inventory down the [00:15:00] local teams throats. That’s that’s not what we do here. We actually flip the bit.
[00:15:05] AJ Maestas: Well, I’m really happy to hear that there’s all these anomalies. We spot right in pricing, you know, in what we do for a living at Navigate. And that is a bewildering one to me, because that’s not what’s happening. You know, most of the national deals before this are, are at a pretty significant discount. I think they’re trying to prove the concept, you know, when they’re for sale, right.
And some of those things in the banks, but I’m really happy to hear that, you know, ESPN is our longest standing media client. They get a premium and they have high demand for their sponsorship inventory. Think of like college, you know, game day. And most of the partnerships when they’re getting beat up, and justifiably so, with the eroding sort of media distribution and sort of audience right.
In traditional sort of media buys. So good for you. Glad to hear you’re putting analytics in there, you know, we’re, we’re finding you even have a former Navigator on your team working on that stuff.
[00:15:52] Michael Schreiber: I apologize. I didn’t know that. Sorry. Hopefully that wasn’t recently.
[00:15:54] AJ Maestas: No, we’re thrilled for him, he’s where he wants to be.
It’s wonderful. It is. [00:16:00] Under-priced in our estimation. When we look at collegiate inventory. If you look at the passion and affinity for high school sports and collegiate sports, and then what is charged for it, and it makes sense in spite of it being sold locally, but we see it as an almost 50 cents on the dollar discount relative to if it were the hands of a professional sales group.
So hopefully Craig and the team are helping bring some of that stuff to, you know, some of their best practices in the RSN business and the pro sports RSN business. But you’d be, it would blow your mind with some of the CRM practices are in your competitive set or the lack thereof.
[00:16:26] Michael Schreiber: Yeah, no, you’re right. ESPN is a big client of ours, you know, as well.
And actually we’ve been helping them push the plus product out out to, to sports fans right. They give us what their plan of focus is and who buys plus, and then we help activate that, that fan base throughout all of our inventory. So I think it sounds like we’re working together in some way or another already.
[00:16:47] AJ Maestas: Well, they’re paying you, so they advertise with you to promote ESPN plus?
[00:16:52] Michael Schreiber: Oh, nice. I did not know that. Oh, nice. It makes sense. Right. Laser focused target. I had no clue, so good for you. [00:17:00] Okay. Some fun stuff. Christy, we have to talk about your career. You won a national championship at Stanford. You were another year at a Final Four there. And you were nominated for the 1993 Espy for national player of the year.
I mean, this is typical of a, of a shooting guard, from Stanford, but you go on to get your MBA from Duke. I won’t give your whole resume, but most recently, Chief Operating Officer of the WNBA, do you mind giving us some insight into that, you know, how that fuels you, how that has supported you, what role that plays as a professional athlete, collegiate national champion into your business career?
[00:17:35] Christy Hedgpeth: Well, it is a little bit alarming when I think about this year being the 30th anniversary of that national championship. Okay. I don’t hide from time, but it was just an incredible experience playing for Tara VanDerveer the winningist coach in women’s college basketball history.
And you know, and, and Mike knows this, I’ve said to him many times when I was talking with him and Craig about joining the team is, you know what, [00:18:00] wow. You know, what, what really is drawing you to Playfly and we can talk about that. But one of the main things that I always talk about is how formative my collegiate and high school experience was and professional experience.
To me as a person and it’s got a connection to what I think is where a lot of athletes to the concept within business. There’s something, whether you think about teamwork resiliency, competition, strategy, all of those things and really effortlessly from one to the other, and I think make you able to have a career.
And I knew that I loved sports so much, that I needed to really look for ways to combine my love of sports with what I felt were my instincts for business. And so that’s translated really well. And as you know it’s not just the sports industry that is looking for former student athletes. There are a lot of industries that are looking for student athletes, because of some of the things I mentioned, you know, and just kind of [00:19:00] their I’ll call it constitution and their training in a lot of ways. And so it’s great because when you’re in the sports space, you tend to you know, know people throughout the industry. And I just tried to network and I did internships.
I think I worked for at the Stanford athletic department for either 900 or a thousand dollars a month. So in California, so you pay your dues, you know, and you just get that experience. But I didn’t know what, I didn’t know, then and I’ve had such an awesome opportunity. I had an opportunity to play professionally and I felt like I was behind my peers.
Because they’d been out doing, you know, management consulting and investment banking and marketing for J and J for five years. And I’ve been playing professionally so I went to business school as a little bit of a catch-up, which I think was good. And I have just been so fortunate to be able to have close to a 25 year career now I’m in sports, but I think there’s a real continuity between what makes you both drawn to business and sports. And I think you know, competent and successful in both.
[00:19:59] AJ Maestas: I’m [00:20:00] sure that was easy by the way being in the bay area, it’s not expensive there or anything. So no problem. I probably shared this stat too much, but, and it’s quite outdated,
but at one point I saw, I think it was KPMG had put out some research on women in the C-suite and 70% of them played high school sports. And 50% of them played collegiate athletics. You know, that doesn’t prove causation, but I appreciate the way that you described it as far as the constitution and the makeup of that person and competing and discipline and all those sorts of variables that can’t be a coincidence right?
[00:20:34] Christy Hedgpeth: Yeah, no. Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, the other thing is that I should have mentioned is definitely confidence, confidence in situations where you may be the minority in terms of the gender composition. I mean, there were times where, I mean, well, most of my career, you know, in the off season, you could only find pickup games with guys.
Maybe there were one or two of your teammates here or there. You just get you, you know, and obviously the sports industry hopefully is [00:21:00] evolving, but there’ve been many times where I was the only woman in the, in the room, you know, at various companies that I’ve worked for that can be very intimidating, but it just felt like second nature to me.
I think also it works the other way. I think it helps to some extent, and, you know, working with your male colleagues that they can maybe relate to you and your sports career a little bit, a little bit more so maybe than if you didn’t. So, so I think that confidence is really, really important that comes from sports and translates to business as well.
[00:21:30] AJ Maestas: Yeah. I, I believe that Mike and I are members of YPO, the young presidents organization, which hopefully he has you looking at that because it’s disturbingly underrepresented by women. I think these stats would probably be a little inaccurate here too, but there’s, I think there was around 15,000 people in the United States that are founder, cEO, or what have you, a member of this organization.
And at one point in the U.S. 300 of them were women. Now it’s up to about 6% now, I believe, but which is a much higher number than that ratio, [00:22:00] but what in the world? Right? Like, And, and that’s not a perfect representation of all business, you know presidents, CEOs, or what have you, but still, I mean, it’s a support group.
The whole concept about it is opening the door to others. And what have you. Mike, I think our listeners know that we’re a founding team member of Hulu, but big deal kudos, great vision. But much of your career has been spent with these big players in the traditional media and cable TV space, like NBC and Comcast.
Do you mind sharing with us what it was about your career that helped you realize streaming was going to be the next big trend? Because this is back in 2006, right?
[00:22:32] Michael Schreiber: Sure. Well, Christy is more interesting than I am. So I I’d rather talk about her and her successes cause we’ve got you know, she’s, she’s been a sports champion now she’s going to be a business champion with Playfly Sports.
So I’m excited about staying competitive in that competitive spirit that that Christy has and all of her background experiences are really pushing us forward into this new world of thinking about multimedia rights, thinking about college and high school differently and really growing those businesses.
Like they’ve never seen before. If you take some of our [00:23:00] whether it’s a power five or mid-major partners, and look at some of the growth that we’re having with some of those partners, it’s really exciting. So, so I’m just excited about Christy, but I’ll talk about me too briefly here, but my background is really about transformation.
So, and that’s been fun. Ever since I really started in the media business, I was in a role that was focused on how do we address different habits? How do we address the changing experience, the viewing experience, whether it’s on your phone and your computer, or even maybe on your refrigerator. At some point in time, can we coming forward.
But at the end of the day, the view is that it’s about addressing the fan at the right time, addressing the viewer at the right time, the right place, with the right screen. And it’s been fun addressing those habits over the years, Hulu, as you mentioned, as one of those areas of successes, but plenty of failures too, in that mix, plenty of things we tried that didn’t work.
I could probably list like 15 things I tried that that are, that are in the digital graveyard right now. But lots of fun things that did work in those years and at doing some of the first deals, the first digital [00:24:00] deal with Amazon, for content, you know, some of the first deals with Netflix. And really moving the business forward and giving people an outlet I’m on new devices.
I actually actually put the first linear network limit on a flip phone in 2006. It was one frame a second. It was at CNBC on a Sprint flip phone, one frame a second, which I don’t know if you see my hand, but really slow and horrible. That died a horrible death, but it was an experience that nobody had ever seen before.
So that shows you, you know, back from 2006 to where we are now, where I’m watching a full NBA playoff game last night on my phone, sitting on my couch, while my daughters and my wife watched, you know, whatever they were watching, This Is Us or something, and half of them were crying. So we had that, you know, family experience.
I got to watch the NBA game and they got to watch their fun shows too. And we all had that experience, but that wouldn’t have been available if we didn’t really try hard you know, 15 plus years ago and have a lot of failure. So when you look at that and you think about [00:25:00] where we are today, they really doesn’t matter what screen you’re talking about on the, at the end of the day it’s video and it’s fandom and we trade at Playful Sports in fandom across the board.
So our view and that really has you know, taken me from where we were in terms of thinking about different consumption habits, to where we are today at Playfly Sports. And we want to be disruptive. We want to change. We want to be innovative so we’re thinking about ways to try to drive new categories of experiences and fan experiences for both our brand partners who are looking to get in front of those brands and for our sports organization partners who were looking to drive fan engagement of revenue.
So we’ve invested in a lot of categories. One of the biggest ones has been content. We believe content is what I call sometimes a triple win category where you actually can produce content that not only is a marketing vehicle, but it creates significant fan engagement. It creates an advertising monetization opportunity.
And now it creates an opportunity to pay some of the athletes. When you talk about college [00:26:00] from an NIL perspective, and actually when you take that type of experience and you look at content and you start, you start producing more and more, and we have a production company called Playfly Creates that does a lot of this content.
We’ve produced content for pro as well as we made, you know, a lot of the commercials that you see on air when you’re watching the brand commercials, we just actually released the Snickers commercials this week. So, but when you think about all this content we’re producing, you don’t really think about all those other benefits that are playing out.
One example. And this is really an example of the Christy led and her leadership and her innovation with her team at college, but we put together a campus cast live product, which was basically a companion cast for Michigan State that star quarterback and star wide receiver held a two hour show in companion to the Michigan State basketball team playing seven sponsors were overlayed in the show, fully produced live show by our team. So we had fan engagement. We had advertising, we [00:27:00] had marketing for Michigan State and marketing for all those brands and the athletes got paid. Based on the new world of NIL so those are some experiences that are really breaking new ground for us, that we’re doing with a bunch of our partners at a bunch of our schools.
So not only do they give a lot of value to all the fans of Michigan State sports, but it gave value to the advertisers, it gave value to the athletes who were participating and even gave them an educational experience. Those two guys who led that show learned. Learned they can carry a full two hour live show.
It was a pretty amazing experience for those two guys to think about the future broadcast career. Think about more opportunities in front of the camera. So I just love that kind of stuff. And those are just areas where we look to invest. We think about transforming the business. It’s not just about selling a sponsorship in a stadium or along the side of a road.
That’s not what we’re focused on. We’re focused on driving multiple benefits for our partners.
[00:27:53] AJ Maestas: You know, that’s really interesting. That’s a really cool case study. I’m glad you shared that. You know, Meta and Alphabet are [00:28:00] basically taking all the digital dollars out of the marketplace and all the growth right.
Where sports is generating the content. They’re not paying for it. So, so that’s really smart stuff. You look at what Drive to Survive did for F1, right. And that storytelling, and you have the rights to do that. So that’s a cool story with the Michigan State one. You know, there’s some esports entities. And I don’t know if you’re doing this with you or your esports business as well, but where it’s just, it’s a multi-channel network reseller.
It’s creating content, right. As an influencers, and they’re making more money on that as, than they are. When you think of traditional revenue streams, right. With a stick and ball sports. Cool. Very cool example, Christy, if you don’t mind me asking, put you on the spot here again, but what I think we’ve addressed a few of these things, but I would love to know we work as a consultant on multimedia rights deals quite often.
I think it’d be helpful to our friends in the industry that listened to this. What would you say are the key points of differentiation for Playfly from, you know, Learfield JMI, Van Wagner, you know, your sort of traditional multimedia rights competitors.
[00:28:57] Christy Hedgpeth: Sure. I mean, one, you know, obviously that we’ve [00:29:00] talked about, you know, we really believe is a differentiator for us is our national sales capability those relationships with the brands.
So those things are really, really important. Second. We have we believe that we are proven operators as Mike pointed out. We are, we’re a new brand, but we’ve got decades and decades expertise and examples of where we have tripled and quadrupled revenue for Power Five properties. And we do that through a lot of care and a lot of operational expertise.
Another thing we talk a lot about is is something that Mike has touched on, which is just, you know, we have a lot of capabilities beyond MMR. And if you think about the things that are keeping athletic directors and that athletic department staffs up at night, you know, it’s, they’re not, they’re not just worried about, you know driving sponsorship revenue or MMR rights.
They’re worried about. Things like an NIL and what strategy, you know, is best to take. They’re concerned about other revenue streams and fan engagement. And [00:30:00] we have a, as Mike talked about extensive content development capabilities subscription capabilities and ways to really engage fans. And I think the other piece of it is we really pride ourselves on being trusted partners.
And you know, we’re not on a quest. Have two or 300 properties. We believe we’re on a path and on the course, if not already to, to be the leader in the space, but defined differently than number of properties necessarily we have over 30 colleges and state high school associations, but we really pride ourselves most on out being that trusted resource that strategic advisor and just really being a true partner. And so we feel really proud of that. We’re not perfect. But we’re always trying and we’re always working to be a great partner.
[00:30:43] AJ Maestas: You mentioned the name, image, and likeness and Mike’s example with Michigan State. Obviously. Are you going to be furthering that business?
I’ve been waiting for the multimedia rights players to have a solution, a stance a piece of the business. I don’t know if you’re willing to share any future plans.
[00:30:58] Christy Hedgpeth: Yeah, absolutely. I can take a crack and then Mike, [00:31:00] please, you know, can add. Well we really broke through, I think with the Campus Cast Live, that was the first MMR partner that had directly engaged student athletes with an NIL deal.
So we are going to look to continue to build on that with further Campus Cast Live across different sports, you know, for football, engaging other athletes. Men and women Olympic sports, et cetera. So there will be a lot of opportunities to engage student athletes directly. And I’m personally very passionate about the fact that this is great, these are training grounds for student athletes. You know, basically the only kind of training round I had as it related to career was just working basketball camps in the summer, you know? And, and so this is awesome and we just feel great about what we’re bringing to student athletes. But we’re also in a really unique position as a multimedia rights holder to hold the exclusive use of IP.
And obviously that’s something that we can go to our current partners and talk about, think about what are they [00:32:00] investing in today? They’re investing in the marks, they’re investing in the brand or these colleges and state high school associations, because they are meaningful and they want to connect with the fan base.
And what better way to strengthen that connection then integrating student athletes. And so we have examples of deals that we’ve done at UVA and other places, and we’re working on it across our portfolio to really be able to leverage our relationships with partners, to strengthen, you know, and add value for them and add value the university is obviously as well as the student athletes. But those are a few, a few places where we’re most focused. I don’t know if Mike wants to elaborate.
[00:32:35] Michael Schreiber: Yeah, no, we’re, we’re bullish on name image and likeness. I’ll just add one other element. Everything Christy said was, was perfect. The one other element is that as you start to use athletes as influencers. One of the cool things that happens is you get a whole new category of brands spending in college sports. So you’re starting to see these new categories. I’ll just give you one example, sunscreen who thought sunscreen would invest [00:33:00] in college athletes, right. Or college sports.
But now, because these athletes are also influencers, you’re seeing these new brand categories show up in college sports that you’ve never seen before. So you’re seeing an influencer athlete that could take money now, branding for, for doing marketing for sunscreen. And now I’ll just give you an example. We just did a sunscreen deal at USC in LA.
So you’re starting to see these interesting things happen, where we’ve got this whole new category of opportunities to go after because the student athlete as an influencer market is opening up new brand categories. So it’s a really interesting time to be a multimedia rights provider, not because we’re getting somehow there’s, money’s going to flow this way and that way.
No, it’s because we’re actually going to grow the pie together and we’re going to create more value for the whole ecosystem, including the athletes themselves.
[00:33:51] AJ Maestas: Really appreciate you seeing it that way, because I think a lot of people feared cannibalization, right. You know, they, they be feared, you know, dollars could flow to some [00:34:00] external multichannel network, right.
That goes straight to athletes as influencers, whatever you so cool. I love that. While I’ve got, you’re talking by the way. Are you willing to share anything that’s coming next in your business? You know, getting into ticketing, getting into streaming with video, you know, on a direct to consumer product, or are there, there are future acquisition category targets that you’re willing to share that you picture as a part of being appropriate?
As a part of your sort of suite of offerings.
[00:34:25] Michael Schreiber: Sure. I mean you know, we don’t have any specific announcements today, but definitely we are expanding. I mean, our, our goal is we’re going to continue to, to grow our business significantly. We’ve got a significant amount of dry capital to go and buy more businesses.
So you’re going to see some announcements there. We have opportunities to drive more property wins in the multimedia rights space. So you’re going to see some, some more announcements that are coming up there that we can’t make public yet. You’re going to see us get into your name, a bunch of them, obviously we’re in content, digital platforms, direct to consumer certainly.
We’re [00:35:00] getting more and more focused on game day monetization as well. And looking at that space as an opportunity for Playfly Sports to get further involved in from our standpoint right now, this sort of national model of sales. Is growing so fast for us because of our partner pool, whether it’s the pro partners or whether the college or the high school we haven’t even talked about esports we actually run and own the largest college esports league in the country. Actually, it’s the largest esports league in the world. 600 teams participate in that league both at the varsity at a club level, but we didn’t even have time to hit that one. But when you think about all those aggregated tools that can be offered to a brand.
It’s really a huge growth opportunity for us even organically inside of our business, that we can funnel those revenues back down to all of our partners and drive their businesses again, using the impetus and the vision behind our business, which is network effect and scale effect. And bringing all of those elements down to each of the [00:36:00] fragmented and layers within the sports industry and really propping up our partners, whether it’s a pro team, college athletic department, or state high school association.
[00:36:08] AJ Maestas: And is this SeventySix Capital that we’re talking about at the same time, at the same time you founded Playfly, you were a founder of SeventySix Capital it, is this part in parcel?
[00:36:14] Michael Schreiber: No, those are two separate businesses. So SeventySix Capital is a sports tech and sports betting venture capital firm. That I helped get the next fund off the ground, but it’s not related to Playfly Sports, but we do actually work with them quite a bit.
A lot of their portfolio companies are vendors of ours that we’d use to actually create some of that innovation. So my relationship with SeventySix Capital is actually driving value for us because, we have a partnership in shot tracker in terms of player in ball tracking in basketball and other sports. We have a relationship with U.S. Integrity that helps some of our schools get more and more familiar with sports betting.
So they get comfortable with taking sponsorship dollars and help them see some of the compliance elements around sports betting. We have the relationship that [00:37:00] advisory group within SeventySix Capital to help us actually with some of our podcasts that the work is actually, they help us produce some of that as well, and there’s a few others that I can’t remember.
Oh, nerd street gaming has a relationship with our esports league as well which is another portfolio company. So there’s these benefits that we have by seeing all with amazing sports tech that comes through a sports tech VC at the same time as obviously growing Playfly Sports. But the businesses are fully separate.
[00:37:26] AJ Maestas: Interesting. You know, that reminds me, you, you had mentioned gambling deals for these university clients. Do you mind expounding on that? What do those deals look like? Maybe some highlights of what are they selling sponsorship and data and how much money are we talking about? Like what can a Power Five university get out of a gambling deal?
[00:37:42] Michael Schreiber: Yeah, these are some of the biggest deals in the history of, of MMR. So really amazing dollars coming in and exciting and really it’s Christy and her team that have led this wave just to keep in mind again, it’s one of the competitive advantages of Playfly Sports. We already take money from all the major [00:38:00] sports books because we represent the pro teams in the ecosystem today.
So we are the leader in sports betting advertising. So, if you think about that, and then you expound on the college category, opening up their willingness to take sports betting advertisers we’re in the we’re in the lead position. So we took advantage of being in the lead position and some of our forward leading partners in the college space have started to move in to these deals. And obviously we’re, we have the ability to have every sports book on speed dial and say, do you want a relationship with one of the most amazing and stored college sports franchises in history at LSU or at Michigan State or, or what have you.
And we’re able to actually drive some of the largest value deals in the industry. It’s really a competitive advantage of Playfly Sports is those type of category openings that we’d have already so many dollars flowing through our national sales business, our pro business, that we could direct them at college and create these categories that no one else [00:39:00] can.
So we’re excited about that. And that’s just one example, right? There’s there’s many new categories coming down the road, whether it’s. Whether it’s cannabis derivatives, whether it’s all these new and interesting web series creating all of these variants of new products that are going to be really targeted towards warts audiences, because there’s such a high overlap between early adopters of technology and sports spans.
So, and that’s why you see all the crypto advertising, et cetera, is of that, you know, that connection over the fans. And obviously we were an expert in that research, that fan research. So we can help provide that back all of our partners to understand where to target and where not too. So so yeah, so sports betting, one of those categories that we were just right.
You know, we’re right. To help all of our partners exploit to the point. Maybe I’ll hand it off to Christy here to just talk about some of the different elements within those deals. That we that we were able to strike recently.
[00:39:49] Christy Hedgpeth: Sports betting, the most recent deal that we announced was Michigan State.
And Caesar’s LSU and Caesar’s, maryland and PointsBet. And as Mike said, you know, [00:40:00] we, we really blaze a trail, I think, as it relates to getting great long-term deals for our partners and adding value for obviously the national brands. It’s an interesting dynamic in college with some of the emerging categories.
You sometimes have to get the universities on board. You know, these are academic institutions. They have a lot of stakeholders. It is very, very different than coming from. My, my prior employer, the NBA and they, and the WNBA fascinating kind of dynamic that I’m finding. And I really like that because there’s such opportunity in these emerging categories and all of the colleges or universities are under pressure to drive revenue.
That was well before COVID came along. And so so we’re proud of what we’ve been able to do because we believe it’s really just adding value throughout the chain and is really just scratching the surface.
[00:40:55] AJ Maestas: I feel bad. I feel like I’m giving you all the tough stuff Christy, would you be willing to give me sort of [00:41:00] your estimate on what you think the average Power Five university should expect from that category in sponsorship dollars.
[00:41:05] Christy Hedgpeth: I think these deals are three to five years. I think when you’re you’ve got emerging players, you’ve got established players and the space and depending on I mean, there’s differentiation even within the Power Fives, but it can be anywhere from.
I’d say mid six figures to a low seven figures annually.
[00:41:25] AJ Maestas: Well that’s that, then those are giant deals in the multimedia rights world world. So congratulations.
[00:41:30] Michael Schreiber: The other thing to note is that there is a consolidation that’s happening in sports betting. So the sooner you get these deals locked, the better off you’re going to be for the future.
Because as that consolidation happens, that means less brands to promote. Unless obviously, you know customers to to sell exclusives to. So it is it is something that I would, I would recommend if schools are interested in thinking about this, that the sooner, the better in this category, because of future potential consolidation of sports books.
[00:41:57] AJ Maestas: I agree. And they’re so risk averse, you know, they’re sitting on the sideline scared [00:42:00] when they’re missing the gold rush, for sure. The I’ll send this to the two of you and for our listeners. And Navigate’s website and NVGT.com we’ve been, you know, the last past two years doing tracking studies on everything to what convert someone to download the app and activate activating account. You know, all the trends you’d want to see for free around those sports gaming and what have you. Yeah, I don’t think anybody’s missing the point of it right now, but yeah. Yeah, this is, this is the moment. And this is the time.
Is there anything that was really exciting that you you’re working on any other sort of emerging topics, categories, things that you’re willing to share with us here today?
[00:42:35] Michael Schreiber: No, I think, I mean, I think we hit most of the key topics. The one thing that we didn’t talk enough about, and I think you, you asked the questions about me and Christy, but one thing that’s really the most important thing in our key value at our Playfly Sports is people.
And the people that we surround ourselves with. And I just wanted to mention that that’s one of the things we pride ourselves on when someone partners with Playfly Sports, whether you’re a pro team, whether you’re a college athletics department, high school [00:43:00] state association you come with our people and our partnership.
And it’s something that I think differentiates ourselves. We talked about driving fan engagement, driving revenue, driving innovation. But at the end of the day, it all starts with people and really inspiring, impressive people like Christy, who we have here on the line here, and a number of other, you know four to 700 other Playfly teammates of ours that are really inspiring the future of growth in the sports industry.
So I just wanted to land on that. We can talk about some amazing press release about some new innovation that we have, but at the end of the day, it’s about teammates and partnership and people integrity. That all comes with an amazing team. It sounds like AJ you have an amazing team at Navigate and we do as well here at Playfly Sports.
So that’s really the foundation. That’s the most exciting thing I would want to talk about today.
[00:43:46] AJ Maestas: I appreciate you saying that. Cause we beat that same drum. Honestly, we put an extreme amount of care and time into attracting and retaining and developing what we believe are amazing people. If you’re willing, I have some rapid fire questions for you that we can [00:44:00] do in a matter of seconds, you’re favorite place to travel Mike and Christy you go after I go through with these with Mike I’ll come back to you.
Favorite place to travel.
[00:44:07] Michael Schreiber: Morocco went down on my 10th anniversary.
[00:44:09] AJ Maestas: Oh, very cool. Very cool. We did a company retreat to Croatia and a bunch of people stayed over, just extended into a vacation and went to Morocco and great stories. Beautiful stories from time. Top passions and hobbies that you can share with us.
[00:44:21] Michael Schreiber: I love art and photography outside of going to sports events with my family and kids and the outdoors.
[00:44:27] AJ Maestas: And greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?
[00:44:29] Michael Schreiber: Give one compliment every day.
[00:44:30] AJ Maestas: Oh, all right. Do you, do you live it?
[00:44:33] Michael Schreiber: No, but I try.
How am I,
[00:44:34] AJ Maestas: how am I looking?
[00:44:35] Michael Schreiber: You look amazing today AJ.
[00:44:36] AJ Maestas: Thank you. Boom. Today’s taken care of you’re welcome. Took care of that for you. Do you have a bucket list sporting event that you have not yet attended?
[00:44:44] Michael Schreiber: I did two weeks ago. It was going to a Formula 1 event in Miami. Done.
[00:44:51] AJ Maestas: I can help you go and style in the future. If that’s a future dream, if you that’s just wetting the appetite. Think about like, imagine what Vegas is going to be like, in the fall of ’23.
Christy, if you don’t mind the same questions, [00:45:00] favorite place to travel.
[00:45:01] Christy Hedgpeth: Yes. Well, I’d have to say South Carolina, home. It’s a 1970s classic no-frills beach house in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. And that’s where I go most frequently. But internationally I’d have to say Italy for sure.
[00:45:16] AJ Maestas: Well, that’s good for you. Good choices. I love that. And your top passions and hobbies?
[00:45:20] Christy Hedgpeth: You know, I am, I’m pretty focused on just being active and healthy. I love yoga. I love lifting. I used to love golf. I am struggling with some back issues, but hiking, I’m going to do a trip to Montana this summer. I want to do like, just try it, like things I haven’t done.
Fly fishing and skeet shooting. Like I just love being outside. I love being outside and just being active.
[00:45:43] AJ Maestas: I hope you get to Glacier National Park while you’re there.
[00:45:45] Christy Hedgpeth: It’s on the list.
[00:45:46] AJ Maestas: Okay, cool. And if you haven’t booked anything yet we did a company retreat in November to Paws Up, a dude ranch and wow.
It was first-class.
[00:45:54] Christy Hedgpeth: Thank you for the tip. I’ll look into it.
[00:45:55] AJ Maestas: Your greatest piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
[00:45:58] Christy Hedgpeth: Greatest piece of advice [00:46:00] was to put together my own kind of personal board of directors. And it’s just been a well of just wisdom and advice that I’ve tapped into throughout my life, both career wise and on the personal front
[00:46:14] AJ Maestas: Smart, I like that. So, jim Kahler a mentor of mine put me in that direction in my twenties, and I’m forever grateful for that. Do you have a bucket list sporting event that you have not attended?
[00:46:24] Christy Hedgpeth: Well for sure. And I want to tick it off sooner than later, but Wimbledon. I’ve hit a lot of the other things on my sports bucket list, but I grew up playing tennis actually much more so than basketball, played year round.
I had a tennis coach, et cetera, and I just, I’m really, really excited to, to take that one off the list. One of these days.
[00:46:43] AJ Maestas: Let me know when you get here to Scottsdale it. It is a tennis town and the weather is always accomidating. Well, I’m so grateful to have the two you here really, really enjoyed our conversation. You shared so much.
And and I think it’ll be really valuable for those who get to listen. And so for anybody listening, do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to reach [00:47:00] out to us. My email’s AJ@NVGT.com. You can also connect with us on our personal LinkedIn page and the Navigate page. Ask these two people questions, and I bet they’ll answer them.
We’ll relay that to you. If you don’t know them personally already. And again, this is AJ Maestas with Navigate joined by Playfly Sports, Michael Schreiber and Christy Hedgpeth. Thank you for joining us on Navigating Sports Business.
[00:47:20] Michael Schreiber: Thanks AJ, we had a great time and excited at the continued dialogue with you and your amazing team.
So appreciate the time .
[00:47:42] Christy Hedgpeth: Such a pleasure, thank you.