Kris McCarthy is the Co-Founder and COO of FanSaves. Kris played seven years of professional hockey and won two Championships before transitioning into the front office. He served as the Director of Sales for Two Minor League hockey teams in 2017. That’s when he and Shannon Ferguson came across a pain point that led to the creation of FanSaves.
Kris works with teams and organizations to increase sponsorship sales and fan engagement through their award-winning digital platform. FanSaves allows teams to digitally activate their fans through discounts and deals provided by team sponsors while making fan data and analytics available.
Kris is also the host of a podcast called, “Living the Startup,” sponsored by Staples Canada. He’s recorded over 75 episodes sharing stories from startup founders from all over the world. Listen in for some takeaways about Kris’s time as a hockey player and how he and FanSaves are improving sponsorship and fan engagement in the sports arena.
You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…
- Learn more about Kris McCarthy and FanSaves [3:23]
- Kris’s favorite story from his time in hockey [6:34]
- How Kris became the GM of a team while playing [9:18]
- What FanSaves is and how it came into existence [11:35]
- How the platform measures sponsorship engagement [16:10]
- Handling innovative technology on their platform [18:02]
- How NFTs might impact the FanSaves experience [19:13]
- Kris’s PitchFest experience and what you can learn from it [21:08]
- What Kris has learned from failing forward [24:55]
- What it’s like working with his significant other [26:16]
- What Kris did today that put brought him joy [28:00]
What is FanSaves?
Kris Broke his finger while playing hockey and was going to miss 11 weeks after having surgery. So he went to the owner of the team and asked to help with sales & marketing. So he became the Sales & Marketing Director, which is where he met Shannon, his Co-Founder.
During the Summer, they spent their time spelling sponsorships. But sponsors didn’t just want a wall sign or scoreboard ad. They wanted something to digitally activate fans and collect customer analytics. But that didn’t exist, forcing them to leave a lot of deals on the table.
FanSaves became the solution. FanSaves is a digital platform that offers fans discounts and deals from the sponsors of their favorite teams. It’s Instagram meets Groupon, a digital coupon book. The sponsors get eyes on them and data that they can track. Teams can understand how fans are engaging with sponsors outside of the venues.
When a fan redeems a deal, they can track general demographics. Teams and sponsors can log in to the dashboard in real-time and see the metrics. The data can pinpoint the amount of traffic they’re driving to sponsors. They can request increases in sponsorship dollars based on performance, which meant Kris could justify ROI for sponsors.
90% of sports fans can’t name more than five of their favorite team’s sponsors. It’s a huge problem when you consider that 4.2 billion dollars are spent by brands on sponsorships in the big four sports in America. Teams have hundreds of sponsors. If you can’t recall a few, how can the team expect you to engage with them outside of the venue?
What Kris has learned from failing forward
Kris and Shannon started FanSaves without experience in development or coding. Their first developer didn’t deliver what they wanted. The next person they worked with was part of a major agency in Canada and FanSaves didn’t get the time of day—or the product they were working toward. They didn’t treat Shannon well as a female CEO.
Once they moved past that company and found a developer that delivered what they wanted they sought to bring development in-house. They eventually found a local agency in Ottawa that they outsourced development to. They failed three times before finding the developer they needed. It takes time, patience, and persistence.
How PitchFest impacted FanSaves
Pitching has been a large part of FanSaves’ growth strategy. It’s allowed them to get in front of people and tell their story. Shannon has pitched in front of thousands of people. They won a $100,000 convertible note. They won a regional PitchFest and represented Canada at a global PitchFest.
There are numerous opportunities in your space to pitch your product. It brought FanSaves clients, money, visibility, referrals, and more. Pitch competitions can be free to apply for—why not put your business out there? You don’t know what could come from it. How can you succeed with a pitch? Kris shares some useful tips in this episode. Give it a listen!
Resources & People Mentioned
Connect with Kris McCarthy
Kris is a former professional hockey player who transitioned into the front office after his career. His passion for hockey paired with a business degree from SUNY Potsdam (’14) led him into the world of sports marketing where he spent several seasons as the sales and marketing director before co-founding a startup in the sports tech industry. As the Co-Founder & COO of FanSaves, Kris is responsible for leading the sales team, strategy and business development for the company. His dedication, leadership skills and ability to build relationships have been an integral part of propelling FanSaves forward.
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