Serena Williams makes investment in Sports Sponsorship

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OpenSponsorship (OS), a sports marketing tech start-up founded in New York by British entrepreneur Ishveen Jolly, has secured a seven-figure investment from Serena Ventures to help the business expand into the UK.

OpenSponsorship has partnered athletes with campaigns from brands such as Walmart, Foot Locker and Levi’s, was launched in the USA in 2015 after Ishveen – who was then a sports agent – realised and then grew frustrated with the obtuse and restrictive way in which athletes were able to access brands for sponsorship. OpenSponsorship’s tech platform allows athletes to sign up for free and apply to brand campaigns to work with them. Brands pay a subscription fee that works for them and by end of 2021, the business had facilitated more than 10,000 deals across 400 brands, reaching $5 million in top line revenue.

The investment from Serena Ventures is the latest funding round received by Ishveen and her team from well-known figures in sport, with other investors including David Blitzer, the owner of NBA franchise the Philadelphia 76ers and co-owner of Premier League football team, Crystal Palace.

Serena Williams, Managing Partner, Serena Ventures said: ““Brand sponsorship is vital to an athlete’s career and OpenSponsorship is giving them more control and ownership over that process. But this is also something that businesses will benefit from,” said Serena Williams, Managing Partner of Serena Ventures. “I love the fact that this platform puts supporting athletes at the core of its business and am proud to be a part of their journey as an investor.”

OpenSponsorship will utilise the funding for a wide array of growth strategies but sees the UK market as a core focus for expansion. To help guide the business and attract new athletes and brands to the platform in the UK, OS has hired Charlie Turner, a former Team GB Swimmer and co-founder of the award-winning plant protein brand Neat Nutrition, as Head of UK.

Ishveen Jolly, founder and CEO of OpenSponsorship, said: “Since launch we have been lucky enough to receive investment from some of the most iconic names in the US sporting industry and with Serena at the heart of this Serena Ventures investment, we couldn’t be more excited. To have the support of those who understand the sports and marketing industry from first-hand experience tells us that we’re building something special. The UK market has matured in recent years and as more brands and athletes in the UK become more aware of the benefits of a streamlined sponsorship process, we’re excited to be in-place to welcome them to our platform.”  

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