I TRAVELLED TO ANFIELD JUST BEFORE THE HARD LOCKDOWN. I’M A HUGE LIVERPOOL FAN AND WANTED TO WATCH THE TEAM PLAY AT HOME BEFORE THEY WON THE LEAGUE, WHICH – FORTUNATELY – THEY DID. SO I RETURNED HOME ON A HIGH, BUT THEN GLOBAL AND LOCAL SPORT CAME TO A GRINDING HALT.
If you play for Liverpool, you earn enough money through your salary and sponsorships to carry you through lockdown. But what about the athletes at national and community level who only make money when they play and don’t have sponsorships to rely on?
Statistically, the average athlete is bankrupt within five years of retiring. The big-league athletes get used to a certain lifestyle that they can’t sustain when they retire and find it difficult to adapt to life after sport and a more frugal way of living.
We came up with MatchKit as way to help athletes with their personal marketing and to generate additional income through merchandise sales and crowdfunding. Like a digital CV and ecosystem for athletes that incorporates the social aspects of Instagram and Facebook.
Bryan Habana, who co-founded Retroactive with me in 2018, was the poster child for MatchKit, being a savvy businessman and the epitome of personal branding which is why he’s sponsored by the likes of Mastercard, Oakley, HSBC, and Land Rover.
We were unique in that we had a fintech aspect within a sports universe. Probably only 1% of athletes have personal websites – people like Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lewis Hamilton. But they also have teams and agents to support them with that.
Even Siya Kolisi, who became the most marketable rugby player in the world overnight because of what his captainship meant for our country our nation, and also for other rugby playing nations around the world, didn’t have a website. MatchKit makes personal branding relevant and accessible and it’s easy for athletes to share a link to their profiles through any other social platform.
MatchKit is a platform for athletes to manage their brands, earn more, and engage with fans and sponsors. It offers all the features of a full-blown website with the ease of a social media account, plus e-commerce and automated reporting, giving athlete’s full control of their digital brands. There’s also a merchandise element where the athlete uploads a logo and MatchKit sources clothing and handles shipping and returns.
We coordinated a PR campaign that allowed us to leverage our founders’ social media followers. Between us, we have 1.5 million to 2 million followers across various channels.
With Bryan Habana being a global sporting icon and our credible co-founder, we went to market by targeting the rugby media. We approached local sports writers, rugby writers in Australasia, Asia, Europe, and South America, and a few niche writers in the United States.
We launched MatchKit on 3 June 2020. In the first month, we signed up athletes with a collective global social media fandom of about 2.7 million people, so it exploded right out of the gate. We signed up the South American Rugby Championship players who came from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina.
A year later and we’re really making an impact and gaining traction. Collectively, the athletes we’ve signed up have reached 6.9 million fans around the world and their MatchKit profiles have been viewed 97,000 times.
Rugby players form our largest user base, followed by hockey, cycling, football, and water polo. We’ve signed the USA Olympic swimming team, golfers, and a world champion body boarder. It’s quite a mix.
Heavy Chef named MatchKit among the top five start-ups of 2020 and we won the Gold award for MMA Smarties best app of the year.
We were also accepted into the AlphaCode Incubate fintech accelerator programme and made it into the top four and unlocked a further R500,000 in funding, so we really hit the ground running. It’s been a rollercoaster. The year has flown by but we are super proud of what we’ve achieved.
We have just launched our new education module, which we’re very excited about. It includes videos on things like ‘Social Media 101 for athletes’, how to post on the various channels, and how to make better content for Instagram. We also have a financial literacy section that will deal with things like planning and investing for your future.
We joke about being the Avengers of Sport because so many of our experiences, our networks, and our ‘powers’ have combined to form this. We have Bryan, Ben Karpinski with his ultimate understanding of sports fandom, Shaka Sisulu’s insights and intimate knowledge about crowdfunding and my digital and PR experience, and we’re bringing it all together to help athletes.
Athletes can go to matchkit.co, and set up a MatchKit website in five minutes.
They simply register and connect their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Instagram should be set to a ‘Business’ or ‘Creator’ account to enable the platform’s analytics functionality through secure APIs.
For now, MatchKit is only available as a mobile web app, via matchkit.co. We’re still thinking about creating a full-blown app.