Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but entrepreneurs are tenacious, gritty, and display endurance as they work to achieve their business objectives. The myriad of challenges and hurdles to overcome when launching a business are innumerable, and for underrepresented groups and individuals the obstacles are statistically higher. According to research by Crunchbase, only 3 percent of all venture capital goes to female-led companies. People of color, especially women of color, are more likely to lack access to capital – less than 1 percent of venture capital each year. People of color report having less access to mentorship and support groups, with women of color experiencing this the most.
Changing the Game, with a Mission
Pitch Day was created to change these conditions. Pitch Day is the NFLPA’s premier startup competition for rising and diverse entrepreneurs. Its mission is to improve the way business is done and diversify the landscape by connecting professional athletes with emerging entrepreneurs – specifically people of color, women, and individuals from underrepresented groups – and give them the platform they need to accelerate their startup. “If there’s anything that we can do to put that hand out and help those companies stand up or get further embedded in the sports industry then we’re doing the right thing,” Steve Scebelo, President, NFL Players, Inc.
Launched in 2017, the NFLPA Pitch Day helps early-stage companies led by diverse entrepreneurs boost their businesses by providing an opportunity to capitalize on the influence and marketing power of athletes and the NFLPA. “It’s a game-changer for us,” said Sarah Hill, Founder, CEO, and Chief Storyteller at Healium. “We’re beyond thrilled to lock arms with the NFLPA.”
Healium, the winner of Pitch Day 2022, reimagines mental wellness by allowing people to train inside virtual worlds with their body’s electricity via any wearable. The company’s augmented and virtual reality solutions blend storytelling, neuroscience, and game design to promote self-management of stress, sleep, and human performance. Real-time feedback empowers discovery of healing powers inside consumers by shifting electroencephalogram (EEG) brain patterns, heart rate and other biometrics.
For its win, Healium received an integrated prize package, inclusive of $25,000 in player marketing services from the NFLPA, $25,000 in support from licensing, marketing, and multimedia powerhouse OneTeam Partners, business resource contributions from purpose-driven financial services company, Truist, as well as consultation from Allied Sports and Allied Global Marketing, a full-service integrated agency that works with the world’s largest entertainment, lifestyle, and sports brands, including the NFLPA.
All-Star Connections, High-Profile Visibility
The opportunities to connect and gain visibility on the Pitch Day stage are unmatched. By giving movers and shakers in business a unique platform to pitch their products and ideas to a panel of all-star judges, emerging business leaders have an opportunity to leverage the influence and marketing power of NFL players and other NFLPA resources to take their businesses to the next level.
Alongside respected and savvy investors, some of the biggest names in sports have been affiliated with Pitch Day. The list includes Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Basketball Hall of Famer and Chairman & CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises’ Marshawn Lynch, NFL great, NFLPA Chief Brand Ambassador, and owner of BeastMode®, and Justin Forsett, former NFL Pro Bowl running back and Founder & CEO of Hustle Clean. “Together with the NFLPA, our player members and partners, we’re going to use our own experiences to help many young minority- and women-owned businesses that deserve greater exposure, opportunity, and investment,” said Forsett.
Inclusion, Diversity, and Partnership
In 2021, sports lifestyle brand, round21, took the throne as the Pitch Day winner. The women-owned business merges recreation with expression for today’s outspoken generation. The company provides athletes a sense of who they are with what they play by partnering with artists and creative talent to bring visual ideas to life on sports equipment. “It’s truly an honor to have the NFLPA’s support behind round21 and our mission to make ‘standing out’ the new standard. We’re looking forward to further equipping this generation of diverse athletes with products that fuel their creativity as well as inclusivity,” said Founder & CEO, Jasmine Maietta.
The Pitch Day winner from 2020, SwayBrand, matches Jasmine’s sentiment. SwayBrand helps brands create authentic marketing campaigns through culturally relevant content from a diverse team of creators. “Pitch Day positioned us to gain valuable insights directly from NFL players which helped improve the SwayBrand user experience. Our partnership with the NFLPA has exceeded expectations, and we hope each participant can experience the power of partnership that we’ve enjoyed as a startup in the earliest stages,” explained Horace Flournoy, Founder & CEO, SwayBrand.
The competition continues to attract more startup talent for the 7th annual event taking place in Phoenix, AZ on February 8, 2023.
Pitch Day’s mission becomes more established with each passing year – as a platform for emerging, diverse market disruptors. NFL Players Inc. President Steve Scebelo, remarked, “Pitch Day is one of many platforms the NFLPA is building to help close the gap for women and people of color as well as for athletes in business and investment. We are excited to hear from the pitch companies who are primed for business growth and collaboration.”