When Angelina Lawton ran communications for the Tampa Bay Lightning, she could never understand how a company with such an exciting product–professional hockey, for goodness sake–managed to be so dull when it came time to pitch potential sponsors.
Her frustration spurred her to start a boutique agency, Sportsdigita, which specializes in making flashy presentations for pro sports sales departments–“a movie-trailer for franchises” is how she describes them. Nine years later, executives at more than 450 teams, stadiums, and arenas have used her multimedia slideshows, called Digidecks, to sell everything from merchandise licenses to luxury suites, she says.
But now the pandemic has postponed professional sports seasons, and widespread protests have Lawton’s bread-and-butter clients–the sales groups–lying low. To keep revenue growing and her company afloat, Lawton is pivoting to target customers in new fields from financial services to health care.
Work-at-home sales teams at all kinds of businesses must now figure out how to close deals from afar–and they can use all the help they can get.
“Covid-19 has opened up people’s eyes to remote selling and collaborating,” says Lawton. “Our product is perfect for that.”
When Lawton first started marketing souped-up sales decks to sports and events companies, the multimedia opportunities were obvious. Looking to sell advertising rights to the billboards in the outfield? Show a star centerfielder leaping for a catch in front of them. Marketing the luxury suites for your arena? Play clips of the games, concerts, and monster truck rallies that clients will be able to see up-close from the box.
In 2016, she decided to focus on the hard part, the software–and began selling it as a service so salespeople could produce the digidecks in-house. The move put her into direct competition with legacy competitors like Microsoft PowerPoint, as well as subscription-based online software, such as Prezi. Even so, since pivoting to this software-as-a-service model, Sportsdigita revenue has grown over 200 percent, to $4 million in 2018, which put the company at No. 1,993 on last year’s Inc. 5000 ranking of fastest-growing private U.S. businesses. It ranked at No. 146 on this year’s Inc. 5000 series Midwest list. Today, 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes from software subscriptions, and the rest from services. Clients include the Los Angeles Lakers, the Philadelphia Eagles, and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Now, with sporting events on hold and tensions high from weeks of protests, high-profile sports teams don’t want to be seen as tone-deaf amid the unrest. Like entrepreneurs across the world, Lawton was forced to rethink basic assumptions about her company and customers.
Her company has already made some early scores: Insurer Mutual of America, Cargill, the giant food conglomerate, and Jostens, the seller of high school yearbooks and class rings, have signed on as clients. They have existing libraries of media–salespeople can populate the decks with pre-loaded photo and video options from their own existing ads, and then present them in tandem with Zoom calls or other videoconferencing software.
Next, Sportsdigita is planning to add videoconferencing to Digideck as well, requiring new kinds of software expertise and putting the company up against the likes of Zoom.
For Sportsdigita, the new revenue has offset the slump in sports, and Lawton says the company is once again on track with its pre-Covid growth targets. And her new clients? Their presentations may lack the same jaw-dropping action of their pro sports counterparts–but their infographics and bullet points are leaping off the screen like all-stars.
BY BURT HELM, EDITOR-AT-LARGE@BURTHELM