MatchKit: Athlete Platform Could Generate Revenue For Asian Rugby
There are many new digital platforms aimed at generating added value, revenue and raising the profiles of global athletes, and MatchKit has embraced supporting rugby and rugby players, especially in emerging markets.
We take a closer look at how MatchKit operates and its potential for the Asian Rugby Unions and players – and hear from one of the founders, Mike Sharman. He explains their story, how they have aided athletes and how one of the worlds’ most iconic rugby players, Bryan Habana, is involved.
(Feature Photo Credit: Disrupt Africa)
What is MatchKit?
MatchKit was founded by Mike Sharman, Springbok rugby legend Bryan Habana, Shaka Sisulu (co-founder of media and IT ventures), and sports content creator and broadcaster Ben Karpinski. The sports platform MatchKit.co is owned by Retroactive, and their goal is to help professional sportsmen and sportswomen globally develop a digital presence for themselves, and in turn, increase revenue streams.
Sharman explained that while most sportspeople have a presence on social media, they often don’t have their own website and MatchKit hoped to address that shortfall. “The idea behind the website is to make it easier for sports professionals to develop an online presence, raise money for their chosen charities and make money from selling merchandise.”
How Did the Idea for MatchKit.co Come About?
Sharman says the roots of the idea came to him after he travelled to Anfield as a huge Liverpool fan, and wanted to watch the team play at home before they won the League, which – fortunately – they did. After returning to South Africa on a fan-high, all sports came to a grinding halt due to the global pandemic.
“If you play for Liverpool, you earn enough money through your salary and sponsorships to carry you through the lockdown. But what about the athletes at national and community level who only make money when they play and don’t have sponsorships to rely on?” said Sharman.
He adds that, statistically, the average athlete is bankrupt within five years of retiring and star athletes get used to a certain lifestyle that they can’t sustain when they retire. So, they find it difficult to adapt to life after sport and a more frugal way of living.
“We came up with MatchKit as a way to help athletes with their personal marketing and to generate additional income through merchandise sales and crowdfunding. It’s like a digital CV and ecosystem for athletes that incorporate the social aspects of Instagram and Facebook.”
Bryan Habana was initially the poster child for MatchKit and is one of the core founders. The record-breaking Springbok has built a career in rugby media over recent years and is also a savvy businessman.
With Bryan Habana being a global sporting icon and a credible co-founder, the team went to market in 2020 by targeting the rugby media. They approached sports & rugby writers worldwide, and since then some leading rugby players have signed up to be profiled on MatchKit:
The platform is not only geared for regions and sports that are already full-blown professional, and this is where it could be appealing to players and unions in Asia.
What Solutions Does MatchKit Provide?
“Probably only 1% of athletes have personal websites – people like Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lewis Hamilton. But they also have teams and agents to support them with that”, said Sharman.
“Even Siya Kolisi (The South African rugby captain who lifted the RWC in 2019 and recently captained the Springboks to a series victory over the B&I Lions) became the most marketable rugby player in the world overnight because of what his captainship meant for our country, our nation, and also for other rugby playing nations around the world, didn’t have a website.”
MatchKit aims to make personal branding relevant and accessible. Importantly it’s easy for athletes to share a link to their profiles through any other social platforms and it put the power in their hands, and not necessarily management teams or agents.
How Does MatchKit.co Work?
As a digital platform for athletes, MatchKit.co allows them to manage their brands, earn income, and engage with fans and sponsors. The added benefits of it being e-commerce means there is automated reporting, giving athletes full control of their digital brands.
Athletes can also opt-in on a merchandising element – where the athlete uploads a logo and MatchKit sources clothing and handles shipping and returns for them.
How Has MatchKit Impacted the Rugby and Sports Industry?
MatchKit launched on 3 June 2020 and in the first month, signed up athletes with a collective global social media fandom of about 2.7 million people!
South American Rugby Championship
From a rugby perspective, MatchKit signed up the South American Rugby Championship players who came from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina. The team also implemented Spanish language options for the fans and players.
The impact in 2021 has seen them gain traction; collectively, the athletes have reached 6.9 million fans around the world and their MatchKit profiles have been viewed more than 100,000 times.
Rugby players form the largest user base on MatchKit.co, followed by hockey, cycling, football, and water polo.
Rugby 7s Olympics 2020
MatchKit created profiles for Naya Tapper, Abby Gustaitis, Kristi Kirshe, and Lauren Doyle from USA Rugby at the Olympics. This was in line with their support of athletes to build a personal brand and commercialise it.
At the recently completed Tokyo Olympics 2020, MatchKit also teamed up with the USA Olympic swimming team, golfers, a world champion bodyboarder, the SA hockey team, in addition to the USA Women’s 7s rugby players.
MatchKit over the course of the Olympics saw over 2.3 million engagements with the four US Women’s 7s rugby players.
MatchKit and Rugby in Asia
Myra McGlynn is working with the MatchKit team as Head of Sales, after spending two decades working with World Rugby. There are potentially discussions with rugby unions in Asia and MatchKit, and Rugby Asia 247 believes the platform has massive potential in the region.
If you think of the top-tier unions in Asia, MatchKit makes sense, as key players can be highlighted to help grow the sport, the personalities of the national teams can also drive revenue through increased social media interaction, and possibly merch sales and sponsors.
Unions in Asia generally lack a ‘face” to help drive the sport, but with the recent Repechage 7s Rugby in Monaco, and the Tokyo Olympics 2020 Rugby Sevens, unions such as the HKRU, Kazakhstan Rugby, Japan Rugby and Korea Rugby Union could all capitalise on increased media attention
In 2021-2022, these unions and others from Asia Rugby, will be involved in international rugby tournaments taking place in the region. These include the RWC qualifiers for the Sevens Rugby World Cup 2022, the Women’s XVs RWC in 2022 and the Men’s XVs RWC in France in 2023.
The Philippines Rugby Football Union and Malaysia Rugby Union also have professional players active in the Japan Top League and the MLR in the USA, which they could tap into from a marketing and sponsor point of view.
MatchKit by the Numbers
- Almost 7,000,000 global fan reach
- MatchKit athlete profile views approaching 100,000
- 22 sports; 14 countries
- Rugby Union – most popular sport
MatchKit Supporting South African Olympic Athletes
The MatchKit team assisted South African hockey with financial support after SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) had decided not to send them to the Rio Olympics, and with Tokyo looking doubtful.
MatchKit used the platform and its PR network to crowdfund the money to successfully get the SA hockey team to the Olympics. With player profiles on the MatchKit platform, and due to the pressure the campaign applied, SASCOC eventually agreed to send the men’s and women’s hockey teams to the Games.
More recently, post-Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Sharman has been spearheading a PR blitz and crowdfunding camping to support the SA medal-winning athletes after SASCOC did a u-turn on awarding the medal winners with financial compensation. Tatjana Schoenmaker had won gold and silver for swimming, and Bianca Buitendag won silver for surfing.
Incensed by this, the team has raised nearly R300,000 (about USD $21K) in less than a week in August 2021, and MatchKit waived all fees on money transfers so that the athletes would get all of the rewards. Bryan Habana also weighed in with a financial contribution. The ‘GoFundme’ page was set up through Bryan Habana’s MatchKit page, and Sharman said the full amount collected would be shared between Schoenmaker and Buitendag.
It’s this passion, commitment and transparency that’s endearing MatchKit to fans and athletes.
What is MatchKit planning for the future?
A new education module has been launched and includes videos on key topics to support athletes such as ‘Social Media 101 for athletes’ (how to post on the various channels & how to make better content for Instagram.) The videos also include a financial literacy section such as planning and investing for your future.
The pricing for athletes to use the platform has changed too. “Initially we charged athletes USD $20 a month to subscribe to our services. But for some athletes who aren’t sure when their next paycheque is coming, where their next meal is coming from, and who have had to sleep in their cars, $20 was a bridge too far.”
The approach now targets the teams and brands to sponsor athletes’ subscriptions. The ease of pulling data insights and analytics from social media allows the sponsors or potential sponsors to have reliable data to review. “Being able to show sponsors that, through Instagram, these players reached 6m people over and above traditional media starts quantifying the value of teams,” said Sharman.
Interested athletes can visit the site MatchKit.co, and set up an individual website quickly by registering and connecting their Facebook and Instagram accounts. MatchKit is only available as a mobile web app, via MatchKit.co.
Asian Rugby News
- New Rugby Tournaments to Watch 2021-2022.
- How is rugby engaging with its audience in Asia?
- Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2021 Cancelled.
- Asia Rugby 2021 Tournament Changes