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Demand Inc. launches sports division with blue-chip clients

By Ben Fischer

Demand Inc., a 5-year-old startup that uses artificial intelligence to find under-the-radar sales leads and schedule pitch meetings with them, is launching a dedicated sports division after landing several blue-chip clients in the industry.

The company’s AI tool, which it calls “Lasso,” finds companies interested in spending on sports before they say they are, said CEO and founder Derek Rey. Through analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission data, media spending, social media activity, real estate transactions and other data, Demand aims to get sales teams in the door just as those companies prepare to turn on the marketing spigot.

“We’re reaching out, booking the meetings for them, so they can focus on the highest value purpose of sales, which is getting a team in front of potential partners to create a meaningful experience,” Rey said. 

Rey

Demand recently hired Zack Sugarman, veteran senior vice president/properties at Wasserman, to become its chief strategy officer. The Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Rams and New York Mets are among its early sports clients.

Every pilot project attempted by Demand for prospective sports clients has generated at least one sale, Rey said. After the AI identifies targets, Demand generates email messages to key decision-makers at these prospects with a combination of software and employee writing. Client sales teams take over when the initial face-to-face meeting is booked.

The Rams signed with Demand in March 2021. Chief Commercial Officer Jen Prince, who left Twitter for the Rams in December, said the tool has generated “seven figures” in closed deals and an “eight-figure” pipeline. Prices vary, but Demand charges most clients $7,000-$10,000 per month to start, plus a performance fee. 

“The ROI we’re seeing is amazing, it’s in the thousands of percentage points,” Prince said. “They’ve booked us hundreds of meetings.”

Sugarman

For the Mets, Demand met a pandemic-era need, helping them chart a new sales course during a year when it was difficult to create any face-to-face meetings. Since then, said Brian Glynn, senior director of partnership development, the Mets have become more targeted with Demand. “We take the top five, 10 or 15 [companies] in a category, and use Demand to try to bring in other less known, more challenger brands looking to make a splash or on the verge of something.”

Sugarman said working for Demand appealed to him because it’s so well-suited for the highly volatile late-pandemic period in the industry, marked by high turnover with teams and brands.

“There are a lot of new players in the game, a lot of new brands of opportunities, the teams and properties are pushing hard to make a lot of revenue fast while still staffing up, so any sort of tools that optimize or increase efficiency, from a sales standpoint … has been an easy value proposition for teams to understand,” Sugarman said.

The data collection can be centered on certain cities — 30 miles from a stadium, for instance — and the software also removes existing sponsors and companies already in a sales pipeline to avoid duplication.

Rey has not taken outside capital, and he and other employees own the entire company. It has about 100 employees, and has 57 venture capital firms who recommend Demand to their clients — including Mets owner Steve Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management.

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