SBJ/September 12-18, 2011/In Depth

Aiming for the youth sports market

The continued growth of youth sports, including as a source of media content, has several companies looking to be a bigger player in the market. Here’s a sampling:

BLUE SOMBRERO

The logistics involved with most youth sports leagues can be a nightmare. Even for paid coaches, the teams are often adjuncts to their regular day jobs. Trying to manage registrations, fee collections, scheduling and other administrative tasks can be cumbersome. Blue Sombrero, an Atlanta-based outfit formed in 2002, has built a solid niche simplifying those chores with a series of online modules. The company has clients in more than 40 states, particularly among soccer clubs, church leagues and other private entities.

I9 SPORTS

Everybody plays. No tryouts or drafts. Optional practices. No fundraisers. A regional franchise business model. All fairly radical concepts for many hyper-competitive youth sports. But i9 Sports Corp., a nine-year-old firm based in Tampa, has developed a fast-growing network of youth sports leagues and camps in 25 states. The company operates its leagues on a firm basis of inclusivity, allowing kids to try different sports and positions in a way not typically possible in many other leagues.

KORRIO

Seattle-based Korrio started in 2009 and earlier this year closed on a $3.3 million Series A round of venture capital financing. Investors include former Nike, Reebok and Starbucks executive Martin Coles and IndyCar team owner Sam Schmidt. In addition to online registration, scheduling, statistics and roster management, Korrio’s flagship product, Playflow, conducts background checks on team volunteers. After an initial focus on soccer, the company is preparing to expand into other sports.

PLAYON! SPORTS

This Atlanta-based firm produces, develops and aggregates a variety of high school sports content, and distributes it on linear TV, online and via DVDs. Originally a small offshoot within Turner Sports, the now-independent entity recently closed on a $7.2 million Series C round of funding. PlayOn! Sports intends to use the fund to pursue a significant geographic expansion to grow beyond its current concentrations in the Southeast and Midwest.

BERECRUITED.COM

An early leader in matchmaking non-elite high school athletes and collegiate athletic programs, the company is now getting much more social and mobile. The company this year purchased sports social hub Fanvibe, and that outfit’s management now runs BeRecruited.com’s day-to-day operations. As a result, the socially driven efforts Fanvibe undertook to connect fans around events and games will now be applied to BeRecruited.com.

IHIGH.COM
This site already streams thousands of live high school games per year around the country. But the Kentucky-based firm this year made a big move into mobile delivery, optimizing video delivery sites for numerous events to be accessible for smartphones and tablets.

FRONTIER COMMUNICATIONS
The Connecticut-based TV, Internet and phone service distributor focuses primarily on rural areas, where high school sports often take on even larger importance. And the company recently aligned with CBS’s established preps hub, MaxPreps.com, to develop Game On!, an original video service featuring condensed games, interviews, fan-submitted content and other material. On-demand games from 14 states will be available as part of Frontier’s existing MyFiTV digital video portal.

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