Ishveen Anand: Leading the sports sponsorship revolution.



The Indian sports industry has produced some of the greatest players of the time. Emerging on a global front, the Indian sports industry is on the rise. Even though acquiring sponsorship has been a major concern in this field for a very long time. According to a report released by Group M ESP in March 2020, the Indian sports sponsorship market has seen significant growth of 17 percent in the past year and has crossed the $1.2 billion mark. To resolve this conundrum once and for all and let it be a no-brainer for the aspiring talent Ishveen Anand launched OpenSponsorship, the largest and smartest two-sided marketplace for sports sponsorship that could potentially be the change the modern sports industry has been pining for. According to Ishveen the Founder, and CEO of OpenSponsorship, it is no longer an option but crucial to find ways to stand out from your competitors and build yourself as a brand by setting clear marketing goals to attract sponsors. By making sports sponsorships customary and marketing effortless, Ishveen has ensured that the growth potential in the sports industry gets an opportunity to emerge faster and more effectively. She affirms, “Two-sided marketplaces have double purposes, assisting and easing the sponsorship process for brands, by creating access, efficiencies, and price transparencies while creating revenue opportunities for all athletes with a focus on the other 98%, not top 2%.” 

“When your Why is clear, the how takes care of its own.”

From quitting a career to becoming a young game-changer  

Born with a natural inclination towards sports, Ishveen realized her true passion for sports while playing her favorite catch game with her father. This moment of self-realization was life-changing and propelled Ishveen into captaining the Keble College, Netball and Cricket teams at Oxford University. In the following years, when Ishveen was working as a sports agent with a sports management consultancy in London, there was a question that constantly occupied her mind- ‘Why wasn’t there an Airbnb for sports sponsorship?’ Determined to find not just an answer to the question but also the solution, Ishveen knew she had to take a leap of faith. Finally, she quit her successful career in a management firm and moved to New Delhi, India to become a sports agent. With a clear mission and a plan in the saddle, there was virtually nothing that could have deterred Ishveen from pursuing her goal. The journey begins and while on her pursuit to make sponsorship a regular, streamlined, and an impartial process, Ishveen noticed plenty of loopholes in the way the sports sponsorship industry operated. She observed that with its high barriers to entry, lack of tech, and transparency, most of the athletes were deprived of the opportunity and the fulfilling success they deserved. The gap was huge, but Ishveen was ready. So, did Ishveen make it?    

Perseverance and progress    

With a myriad of challenges thrown her way, quitting a successful career in retail management was the first major test Ishveen had to pass. Born and raised in Manchester England, it was not easy for Ishveen to travel to India and pursue her goal to be a sports agent. The huge difference in mindsets, beliefs, and systems was a major challenge Ishveen had to overcome. However, with the success blueprint, Ishveen pulled it off and went on to work with many eminent companies and cricket franchises. “I lead by example and believe in my clients, my team, and myself. There was no silver bullet or bulletin board material that changed my life, sometimes it’s a gut decision,” says Ishveen. Further, in 2011 to promote cross-border sponsorship, particularly between the UK and India, Ishveen started a firm named Auxus. However, following her marriage to an ace Fashion Designer Kirat Anand in the year 2012, she had to move back to New York and a new challenge sneaked into her life. Due to the geographical distance and different time zones, Ishveen started facing challenges managing Auxus. To overcome this, in August 2014, Ishveen launched OpenSponsorship. Within just 5 years of its launch, OpenSponsorship became the world’s greatest AI marketing platform which connects hundreds of brands to over 8,000 athletes, covering 160 sports, in 120 countries for digital, social, and traditional marketing campaigns. For her remarkable contribution, Ishveen was featured at the second position in the Forbes annual list of ‘Young game changers, movers and makers’ under the age of 30, known as the Forbes 30 under 30 Global Prodigies list. Still, in the early innings, OpenSponsorship has closed a whopping 6,000 deals ranging from $900,000 long term partnership agreements to product only one-off social media posts. Ishveen exclaims “We are building our data lakes and using analytical insights, AI-based matching and proprietary ROI information to help brands make better and quicker decisions while leveraging technology and our omnipresent marketplace to create meaningful partnerships for our athletes. A lot of hard work, great teammates, and, a solid commitment to constantly invent on behalf of our athletes and brands is what makes us successful.”  

Ishveen Anand, Founder & CEO, OpenSponsorship,
Ishveen Anand, Founder & CEO, OpenSponsorship,

“I lead by example and believe in my clients, my team, and myself. There was no silver bullet or bulletin board material that changed my life, sometimes it’s a gut decision.”

Success quantified 

Measured by the number of deals closed, success has a definite measure at OpenSponsorship. Irrespective of whether it is a million-dollar deal or a product the only campaign, every project is given an equal amount of importance and personal attention as each successful project will only make lives easier for sportspersons. With all projects going through the same tech and ROI tracking, as long as OpenSponsorship is exceeding the expectations and delivering opportunities for athletes, they consider themselves successful. Even from a larger perspective, as a female leader, Ishveen has only focused on the path that laid ahead of her instead of giving heed to the discrimination and sexism that came across her. She exclaims, “I have never thought of me being a female as a challenge, the same way I don’t think of my English upbringing, or Indian heritage and now American perspective as a hurdle, these are all unique characteristics that make me who I am. I strongly believe in diversity of thought will only make us better as a team, company, and community. As for overcoming being female in a male dominant industry – it’s the same as anything else, every time you step on the court you need to prove yourself irrespective of your gender, race, ethnicity, or color.”  

Surviving and thriving

Following the spread of coronavirus, Ishveen announced a big change for OpenSponsorship and the industry, by dropping their subscription paywall, making free. Ishveen asserts, “This was my way of partnering with the hundreds of brands and businesses that use our marketplace – giving them access to the athletes, technology, and platform without charging them any upfront fees.” Knowing that this decision would directly benefit their athletes with more opportunities made this decision much easier for her. “When your Why is clear, the how takes care of its own,” says Ishveen. Post the Covid-19 pandemic, Ishveen is optimistic about the business as OpenSponsorship has already booked more contracts than in 2019 altogether. Even though they are remote, in the next six months OpenSponsorship looks forward to continuing with their triple-digit top-line growth and double its team headcount. “Our product and tech have never been stronger and our team is focused on continuously delivering for our brands and athletes,” expresses Ishveen. 

Flying High: Women Leaders, 2020 ​.

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