July 15. 2021 — For two years, Jason Bergman represented about a dozen professional athletes, trying to help them secure marketing deals. Bergman, a young and ambitious sports fan and salesman, sent cold emails and social media messages and made unsolicited phone calls to companies. He hoped to get his clients, who weren’t big names or well established, some money in exchange for promoting products or making appearances. Most of the time, he got no response, as companies were inundated with inquiries and only worked with people with whom they had pre-existing relationships or knew through other connections.
That experience led Bergman to think there was a better way to do business. And so, in February 2020, he reached out to Shehryar Khan, a former colleague of Bergman’s at Robly, an email marketing firm. Bergman and Khan soon founded MarketPryce, an online marketplace connecting athletes and companies that officially launched in January.
Bergman compares MarketPryce to Tinder and other dating websites with its focus on making connections in a quick and easy manner. Since MarketPryce’s launch, more than 1,000 athletes and 250 companies have signed up for the platform. More than 20 percent of the athlete sign-ups have occurred this month coinciding with the NCAA allowing college students the ability to profit off their name, image and likeness. MarketPryce has also seen more interest from companies.
“Brands see it as a really good opportunity to reach a younger demographic,” Bergman said. “They see it as a big marketing opportunity because it’s not super-expensive to work with college athletes and everyone’s talking about it now. It’s like a gold rush to college athletes. We have tons of companies that have just made campaigns specifically for student athletes because of it.”
Companies can sign up for MarketPryce for free, publish as many opportunities as they want and reach out to any athlete on the site. They can offer athletes free products in exchange for promoting the brand on social media or elsewhere as well as pay them for promotions or appearances. MarketPryce earns a 5% processing fee for any deals companies strike with athletes, although it doesn’t receive anything if companies just offer free items.
Meanwhile, the monthly price to sign up for athletes ranges from as low as $15 for college students and $49 for professionals. Agents and advisers to athletes pay $99 per month for up to 10 of their clients up to $399 per month for 51 or more clients. Athletes, agents and advisers get a 50 percent discount for an annual membership.
Oxygen Plus, an Edina, Minn., company that manufactures and markets recreational oxygen products, recently signed up for MarketPryce in large part to connect with college athletes. The company has sent samples to about 50 athletes and plans on signing paid deals this month.
“Our product and the youth is a perfect fit,” said Lauren Carlstrom, Oxygen Plus’s chief operating officer. “They really care about wellness. It really aligns with today’s college athletes. It’s new to us, but we’re excited about it.”
She added: “Part of the benefit of going with a college athlete is they understand wellness maybe better than some of the older pros. As a brand, we’re going to have influence and education reach not just to their individual selves but the communities they’re a part of.”
Ally Redig was one of MarketPryce’s earliest adopters. She is the founder of Athlete Relations, a company that works primarily with NFL and professional women’s soccer players on event planning, charity events, camps and other events. The company doesn’t typically focus on securing marketing deals, but Redig signed up for MarketPryce because of its ease of use, low cost and direct access to companies.
“If I can offer that as an added bonus to my clients, that’s amazing,” Redig said. “They’re happy about it, and I’m happy about it.”
She added: “Every time we log on, there’s more on (MarketPryce). I definitely think there’s going to be a lot of deals to come, for sure.”
So far, Redig’s clients have primarily completed transactions where they get free gear or items in exchange for promotion. But John Franklin, one of her clients and a wide receiver with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signed a deal with the Esportz Network to appear on the Gamer Hour show that’s broadcast online. Franklin was interviewed on camera, played Call of Duty: Warzone with the show’s host and received $2,000 for about an hour’s work.
Mark Thimmig, the founder and chief executive of the Esportz Network, said he posted a listing on MarketPryce looking for athletes to appear on the Gamer Hour. About 15 agents representing dozens of athletes responded to the request, a better response rate than Thimmig anticipated because he hadn’t previously known them. Thimmig couldn’t book everyone on the show, but he did cut deals with Franklin, Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler and a few others.
“(MarketPryce) really opened up many doors to the people who represent these athletes, which is what you have to do,” Thimmig said. “You have to work through their marketing representatives and agents in order to work with these athletes.”
MarketPryce raised $250,000 in a seed round of funding earlier this year. It has recently been meeting with venture capitalists about raising a Series A round of about $2 million, as well. The company has six full-time employees, two of whom were hired this month.
For now, MarketPryce is solely focused on sports and connecting athletes and companies. Still, Bergman could see the platform someday signing up social media stars and other people who are looking to earn some extra money.
“Sports is just the tip of the iceberg for us,” Bergman said. “We want to explore the general creator economy, as well, so TikTok stars, YouTube stars, general influencers. But we want to be the biggest player in sports first.”