Three veteran media executives have launched Rhode Island based company with a unique mission: give its’ profits to support youth sports. The Active Youth Network, LLC (AYN) is a national online advertising network of youth sports websites that will deliver a prime audience to family-friendly, major brand advertisers.
The business model is to generate advertising revenue and give 70% of the ad sales back to its’ member clubs and schools.
The company’s principals, who raised eight kids in youth sports, have a collective 70 years experience working with major brand advertisers in television, radio, print and online. The company’s Director of Marketing and Design, Steve Ruggieri, a Rhode Island native has served as media director and chief designer in several local ad agencies including RDW Group. He currently also teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Senior Vice President of Business Development, Chris Westerkamp explains how the idea for the company came about. “As parents we saw how expensive youth sports could be, especially as kids moved up in skill level and started traveling. As media people we saw an opportunity to create a channel to a very desirable market. We were kind of amazed that one didn’t already exist.”
“We did our homework, created a business plan and secured venture financing.”
AYN’s CEO Nick Cavarra, a twenty-year media veteran of television and online sales with the Gannett Company has also coached soccer for fifteen years. Through his contacts in elite soccer, AYN built its’ first beta websites. While vetting the business plan with a top media director in Denver he was strongly urged to venture into youth figure skating. Now figure skating is the fastest growing sport on the network. “Like hockey, figure skating is an expensive sport”, says Cavarra, “rink time alone can cost $25,000 a season. “A club has to sell an awful lot of M&M’s to make a dent in that cost”.
The value proposition to clubs is compelling. The get a professionally designed, highly engaging website with hosting for Free. There are no costs or fees to be a member of the AYN network. AYN sells and services all the national and regional advertising and remits the members share automatically every month.
AYN also provides a self-service advertising system to capture advertising support from local merchants and businesses called QuickAds. QuickAds was developed by Creative Circle Media Solution, an East Providence media consulting and design firm.
There are more than 65 million kids in youth sports with about 160,000 websites. Ad to that audience, parents, coaches, fans and supporters and the potential is enormous. Even a small sliver of that represents a significant cohort.
The Active Youth Network enables advertisers to implement cause related campaigns by aligning their brands strong family values. Parents deeply believe that youth sports is important for teaching their kids life skills; sportsmanship, dedication and leadership.
The enthusiasm for youth sports offers a unique touch-point for brands to break through the media clutter and connect with prime consumers. Because 70% of the money a sponsor spends advertising on AYN goes to the members, advertisers are seen as supporters. Says Westerkamp, “no other media model I’ve seen in thirty five years in the business builds in customer loyalty as powerfully as ours”.