Product Design, UI Design, Branding
Failed to secure initial investors, didn’t go past the Visual Design stage
Me and my business partners had an idea to build a Russian market equivalent of a North American sports marketing platform Thuzio. We needed to prepare our vision of it, UI included, to present to potential investors.
When choosing athletes for sponsorship activation campaigns, brands go for the same Top-10 famous athletes in the country, usually in already overrepresented sports (in Russia it’s mostly football & ice hockey). Less mainstream sports & less famous athletes always get overlooked, despite sometimes being a much better fit for a marketing campaign for a target audience.
We found an existing solution to the same problem in North America: Thuzio. Back then it was an e-commerce powered marketplace for booking contracts with professional athletes (now the platform is called Julius, and it’s more of a general influencer marketing application).
Problem was, this solution was aimed at North American market & Russian market was quite different. So we needed to create a similar product with Russian market in mind.
Thuzio allowed you to browse and filter athlete options based on key statistics (awards & honours, social media following, strength & interests, etc.). However, many of these filters were not going to work with the Russian market. We needed to highlight different aspects & introduce a new filter system, as well as a new version of the athlete profile.
Creating the product that would fit the Russian Market
We had several whiteboard sessions to try and figure out how we could adapt Thuzio for the Russian market.
This helped us realise that for the product to have a chance at success in Russia we had to do the following:
1. Make former athletes a more prominent part of the platform
In Russia, there are many athletes who were very successful and popular back in Sovient Union. They still remain in the public eye as coaches, politicians, bussinesmen and celebrities. They are very sought after in Russian media & therefore a great option for a sports marketing database. Thuzio’s marketplace only allowed a limited amount of tags to search for former athletes; we needed a system that would allow to search for specific athletes within the former athletes category.
2. Reduce the dependance on “Strengths & Interests” tags
Thuzio had a great system of personal Strength & Interests tags that were filterable. However, collecting those for lesser known athletes with more of a local representation in Russia would be an unattainable goal at the MVP stage, so we needed to shift the focus from Interests to other stats
3. Create a different representation system
A lot of smaller athletes in Russia double as representetives for themselves, and a lot of athletes would be difficult to reach at the beginning stages of the product, so we needed a system in which we could add an athlete to the platform without a representetive & in case a brand showed interest in them, the platform would then reach out to the athlete and offer negotiating services.
We tried going to investors with what we had, but unfortunately we couldn’t find one that would support the project, so eventually it went cold.
Conclusion & What I learned
At the end of the day I think we made the right decision with not going past the first UI design stage with SportsFinder. We failed to secure initial investments for this project, but the feedback we received from experienced investors was invaluable.
Investors were right in suggesting that a platform limited to athletes only would fail to be profitable: the product whose lead we originally tried to follow, Thuzio, eventually switched to a general influencer platform as well. Sports is still too much of a niche in marketing.
Still, I learned to look at products from potential investors’ perspective, and now I have a deeper understanding of what makes certain products or features fail and others profit – something that helps me a lot when communicating with stakeholders and deciding which parts of the product should be prioritized.