Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 22 No. 34
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

SportsHosts aims to pair sports travelers with host fans

Imagine traveling to New York for a soccer match and marching into Yankee Stadium with a New York City FC supporters group. Or having a diehard San Francisco Giants fan show you McCovey Cove and where to get the best seafood at Oracle Park.

Those are just two of the experiences you can have thanks to an Australian startup and its unique spin on sports travel. SportsHosts offers traditional services, such as tickets, transportation and accommodations, but then it links traveling fans with game-day hosts.

Hosts post their tailgating, social and game-day experiences on SportsHosts’ website (www.sportshosts.com). Fans traveling to a city or interested in socializing with those hosts can then search through listings and eventually meet up for events.

The hosts sign up for free and don’t get a slice of the revenue, but they get to offer organic sports experiences and spread their personal sports gospel, said Darren Walls, co-founder and CEO of SportsHosts.

“The biggest trend in the world is around authenticity and people wanting to have authentic experiences when they travel to new places,” said Walls, who founded the company with Melissa Blair in 2016. “We’re an experience economy.”

The company started working with Melbourne FC of the Australian Football League in 2017 and ran a pilot project with the San Francisco Giants last season. SportsHosts also has partnerships with the Brooklyn Nets and New York City FC.

For teams partnering with SportsHosts, it’s a chance to sell tickets, market other deals to SportsHosts fans, sell merchandise and grow fan bases. SportsHosts makes its money by getting commissions on the tickets, merchandise, concessions and packages it sells. Walls didn’t disclose what its percentage cuts were.

SportsHosts started a new $1 million investment fundraising round in late January and has raised $290,000 so far. SportsHosts counts Fred Maglione, the former chairman of TopTix and former president and CEO of New Era Tickets, among its investors and advisers. Its U.S. headquarters is in Denver.

Ryan Earles, head of digital marketing for Melbourne FC, said the team plans to expand its partnership with SportsHosts. “In terms of the business model, we were seeing repeat paid visitors returning to our games last season, which is a good indication the model works,” Earles said.

The San Francisco Giants did a two-week pilot project last season that enlisted 22 hosts. The team will be a full-time partner in 2019.

“The thing we didn’t realize was how engaged and excited our current fans would be in being a host and sharing their love of the game with new people,” said Mario Alioto, executive vice president of business operations for the Giants.