A Trailblazer in Sports & Tech
Ishveen Anand is the founder and CEO of OpenSponsorship, an online platform solely focused on allowing brands to Search, Connect and Sponsor opportunities within professional sports. OpenSponsorship allows brands to search, connect and sponsor opportunities in professional sports sponsorship. The platform’s vision is to make sports sponsorship easier for everyone. At OpenSponsorship, everyone knows that athletes, teams and events rely on sports sponsorship to keep the lights on and the wheels turning, so it’s so very imperative to have smarter and easier access to the brands that would make for great sponsorship partners. Led by Ishveen Anand, OpenSponsorship has achieved a premier name in the sports sponsorship landscape. This is her story!
Born and brought up in Manchester, England, Ishveen completed her studies in Economics and Management from Oxford University, Keble College. After working for an ephemeral stint of about 2.5 years with London-based boutique retail management consultancy firm Javelin Group, Ishveen entered the sports world in India. She moved to India to work for a Delhi-based sports agency Commune and spent about 3 years servicing Mumbai Indians, Hero MotoCorp, ICC, FIH, Pernod Ricard, Idea and many more companies. In 2011, Ishveen started Auxus to work in cross-border sponsorship, particularly between UK and India. But after getting married to a Fashion Designer, Kirat Anand of KAS New York, in 2012 and moving to New York, Ishveen was challenged with difficulties regarding continuing and managing Auxus’ business operations due to the geographical distance, different time zones and different sports.
In Ishveen’s life as a sports agent, she was in charge of brokering deals between athletes / teams / federations + brands. One of her trips involved her going to Colombia to speak to various soccer teams to inquire about their sponsorship opportunities available – she fed this information back to the brand client, who said they would review in the next 1 month. “I knew the information would probably be different soon enough and so I’d have to do the whole trip again, this made me wonder why there wasn’t an Airbnb or Kayak for our industry and hence the idea was born,” she recalls. Finally, in March 2014, Ishveen came up with the idea of OpenSponsorship, which she launched officially in August 2014.
The struggle, rise and achievements
Ishveen started OpenSponsorship because she saw a business need and understood that there was an opportunity to build an amazing technology solution to solve the inefficiencies within the $60B sponsorship industry. “I think it’s really important to start a company because you really believe in the mission, because at times being a CEO / entrepreneur can be really challenging and remembering why you are doing it, and believing in it, is really important. At first, when I started and had one technical partner, I was an entrepreneur, now that we are a team of 10, my role has definitely evolved to become a CEO. My responsibility is to recruit the best people and make sure they are properly equipped and inspired to complete our mission, as opposed to being the one that does the work,” Ishveen shares.
Ishveen has achieved many accolades in her career, which has always paved her way and made her realize that she is on a right path. To name a few in a long list of Ishveen’s achievements and highlights; she has been named on the Forbes 30U30 list for sports; she has done OpenSponsorship’s first six figure deal with a top NFL player and a brand who would never had otherwise invested in sports; she has signed her client, Anheuser Busch, arguably one of the most sophisticated sponsors of sport as it gives her technology a lot of validation; being named one of the most innovated AI partners by IBM and getting advertised by IBM Watson on their homepage; and she has also brought an NBA All-Star Baron Davis as an investor and in total raising $1.4M.
OpenSponsorship offers a transparent look at the sponsorship opportunities available across athletes, teams and events, for brands to partner with. Currently, they are most focused on athletes for a number of reasons (a) the price point to partner with an athlete is a lot more accessible than bigger teams and (b) the rise of influencer marketing has meant that we found an amazing untapped opportunity with giving brands access to athletes for mostly digital and social media benefits.
Making the most of life
Growing up, Ishveen cared about making her parents proud and making the most of life. She was never tied to wanting to do x or y in life, it was very much about making every day count. This attitude, according to her, is what has made her who she is and something she continues to count on. Ishveen also shares that a leader for her is someone that can empower a team to be unified on one mission. “I think of someone that leads by example, never thinks they are too good to do a task. I think of someone that is constantly learning and self-improving. Being a leader isn’t about one moment, but it’s about keeping up as times and circumstances change. When I hear businesswoman, just by putting Woman into the word, I think of someone who understands that being a woman brings its own challenges and benefits. You have to learn how to deal with the challenges and you have to make good on the benefits. I think of someone strong, ambitions, passionate and successful,” Ishveen asserts.
Continue to bring more people
When asked whether she has achieved all that she desired, Ishveen answers, “Not at all, there is still such a long way to go. It’s definitely important to celebrate the wins and the journey, but we have big ambitions, personally and as a company, and so it’s about working hard to each milestone. Right now for us its two fold; customer service – constantly hit and surpass our client’s marketing and sales expectations and continuously build out our proprietary technology.” For Ishveen, it’s important to continue to grow as a CEO for her team, and to be seen as a trailblazer within the sports + tech industry so as to inspire other females and minorities. As far as OpenSponsorship’s future outlook is concerned, her goal is to continue its amazing growth through bringing on more great people, focusing on customer success and keeping up the platform innovation.