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Serena Williams’ venture fund invests seven-figure sum into OpenSponsorship

Tennis great joins David Blitzer in backing sports marketing tech startup.

19 April 2022 Ed Dixon

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  • OS acilitated more than 10,000 deals across 400 brands in 2021
  • 12,000 athletes are currently on the platform

Tennis great Serena Williams has invested a seven-figure sum in sports marketing technology startup OpenSponsorship (OS).

New York-based OS received the investment from Williams’ Serena Ventures. The fund joins David Blitzer, the owner of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Philadelphia 76ers and co-owner of Premier League club Crystal Palace, among OS’ notable investors.

Launched in 2015 by British entrepreneur Ishveen Jolly, OS’ tech platform allows athletes to sign up for free and apply directly to brands to work with them on certain campaigns. Brands themselves are able to pay a flexible subscription fee. By end of 2021, the business had facilitated more than 10,000 deals across 400 brands, reaching US$5 million in top line revenue.

Since launch, OS has partnered athletes with campaigns from brands such as Walmart, Foot Locker and Levi’s. It already says it has 12,000 athletes on the platform globally.

OS will utilise the funding for a wide array of growth strategies, but added that it sees the UK market as a core focus for expansion. As a result, the company has hired Charlie Turner, a former Team GB swimmer and co-founder of plant protein brand Neat Nutrition, as head of UK. Tuner will help guide the business and attract new athletes and brands to the platform.

It is the second major investment from Serena Ventures this month after announcing its backing for Freeing Returns, a merchandise returns platform for retailers.

“Since launch we have been lucky enough to receive investment from some of the most iconic names in the US sporting industry and with Serena at the heart of this Serena Ventures investment, we couldn’t be more excited,” said Jolly.

“To have the support of those who understand the sports and marketing industry from first-hand experience tells us that we’re building something special. The UK market has matured in recent years and as more brands and athletes in the UK become more aware of the benefits of a streamlined sponsorship process, we’re excited to be in-place to welcome them to our platform.”

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