Introducing endurance sports to digital advertising

Competitors climb the Manayunk Wall. Endurance event managers are using digital media more.
Competitors climb the Manayunk Wall. Endurance event managers are using digital media more. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 08, 2014

As triathletes, one professionally in the past and the other because she's clearly a glutton for torture in her free time, Holden Comeau and Jayme Anne Goldberg have an informed perspective on endurance sports.

And not just that they are brutal.

The two noticed a costly deficiency: Events managers were not using online video advertising. That meant they were seriously limiting outreach to potential participants and sponsorship revenue, Comeau and Goldberg said.

You could liken it to a swimmer not wearing the most aerodynamic suit, or a marathoner not laced into the top running shoe.

"Endurance sports had a lack of access to and understanding of digital media," Goldberg said. "To stay relevant and thrive, you have to evolve, and digital has to be a piece, and video is leading that."

Armed with promising projections from information-technology experts about digital marketing's expected growth, Goldberg, 43, of Plymouth Meeting, and Comeau, 36, of Manayunk, who met through the triathlon community, paused their competitive pursuits and founded Silverline Global Inc. in February 2012.

Their four-person company, with offices on Main Street in Manayunk - home of the Wall, cursed by cyclists worldwide - is believed to be the largest video-publishing platform in the endurance-sports industry, reaching 4.7 million athletes in cycling, running, triathlon, and obstacle events.

They do not produce video. The events, and often their sponsors, yield plenty of that. As Comeau put it, "We build out a watch experience."

It's a very niche experience, unlike the everybody-watch-this idea behind YouTube. Silverline aims to connect events and sponsors with those most likely to be interested in them. That's particularly appealing to advertisers, who want pitches reaching their desired audience.

In the endurance-sports arena - Silverline's first focus, but not expected to be its sole emphasis - the demographics are appealing, Goldberg and Comeau said: There are an estimated 30 million finishers in 30,000-plus U.S. organized endurance events each year, and 50 million participants globally. The average endurance athlete makes more than $75,000 a year and is between the ages of 35 and 45.

The numbers on digital marketing are equally inspiring: In February, Americans watched 49.2 billion online-content videos, with the number of video ad views totaling 24.6 billion, according to comScore Inc., which measures the digital world.

About $16 billion is projected to be spent in online video advertising by 2016, more than double the anticipated 2013 spending, according to a January 2013 report by Myers BizNet Media and Marketing Investment Data and Forecasts.

The data impressed Alan Kraus, director of investments for information technology at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The agency that helps start-ups recently agreed to invest up to $200,000 in Silverline.

"Clearly, this is a new revenue opportunity for race organizers, who have not heretofore been able to take advantage of it reasonably," Kraus said. "Digital and video are getting consumed at greater and greater amounts and are only going to increase."

Endurance-events managers are primarily local, independent operators, said Goldberg, who has an MBA and worked in the financial-services industry before launching Silverline.

Without a critical mass of revenue, they do not have the financial resources to invest in building their own technology, or the expertise to access new sources of revenue using digital video, she said.

They also are not large enough to secure sponsorship or advertising from large global brands, Goldberg said. By aggregating digital video publishing, Silverline has developed a critical mass of viewership to access sponsorship and advertising, she said.

Not yet profitable, its revenue largely comes from a share of proceeds it helps clients generate.

"We look at it as a dedicated channel to our content," Patrice Matamoros, CEO of Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon Inc., said of the platform Silverline built. "Through that, we've been able to track every single viewer and the levels of engagement."

That, Matamoros said, has enhanced the value of sponsorships. She is waiting for analytics from Silverline on how the videos have affected traffic to www.pittsburghmarathon.com.

Matamoros expects the numbers will be up: "It's the new way to communicate with your runner."

At Silverline, where demand for its work has now been proved, the efforts are on monetizing it.

"Our next big goal is to secure the presenting sponsor for our platform," Goldberg said. "It will be the first time the endurance industry had the kind of sponsorship on par with those major organizations like the NBA and the NFL."


>Inquirer.com

Holden Comeau and Jayme Anne Goldberg talk about reaching out to the endurance-sports community for their video-publishing business: www.inquirer.com/business


dmastrull@phillynews.com

215-854-2466 @dmastrull

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