GameChanger is a platform where coaches and parents can manage teams, set schedules, keep stats and even live-stream competitions. Already operating in baseball, softball and basketball, the group is adding scorekeeping capabilities in youth football, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, field hockey and water polo.
Dick’s (NYSE: DKS) purchased GameChanger in November 2016 for an undisclosed amount of money, part of the company’s push to serve youth sports beyond its core retail business. More than 5 million fans follow games annually on the platform, double its 2018 number. More than 550,000 teams are listed on the site, a 30% increase since 2018.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the demand for new ways to follow youth sports. Sensing that opportunity, the group added its live streaming function last October and then shifted toward adding scoring for more sports.
“The loss of connection among families and communities was immense, and once youth sports started up again you’d be amazed at how much outreach we got from customers, particularly grandparents, who might have been sheltering in place at their house or unable to travel to visit their families,” GameChanger president Sameer Ahuja said in an interview. “The other thing that happened is live video streaming went mainstream, from Zoom calls to religious institutions and schooling, so familiarity with using video streaming went up dramatically across the whole population.”
The move will widen the pool of users in the Dick’s Sporting Goods ecosystem, valuable data for driving the core business. Dick’s started 2021 with roughly 730 stores and a growing ecommerce platform, in addition to a large corporate commitment to promoting youth sports in particular.
The global youth sports market, estimated at $25 billion, is becoming increasingly professionalized, creating opportunity for tech companies looking to provide services to meet those demands. Basketball (27.8 million) and baseball (15.7 million) are the two most popular team sports in the U.S., according to participation numbers from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Outdoor soccer is next at 12.8 million.
The new sports were chosen with a few considerations, including surveys that GameChanger did with its existing users asking which other youth sports are played in their households. Many of the sports, like hockey, lacrosse, soccer and water polo, are what Ahuja called “goal sports,” where the fundamental gameplay is similar, which provides tech synergies.
“When we built out the functionality to track stats and scores, we were able to find efficiency in our work by grouping them together,” Ahuja said. The same is true with football and rugby, or “zone sports,” which focus on teams moving up and down a field.
Founded in 2009, GameChanger has a “freemium” business model, meaning many functions are free, while some require a subscription. There are no ads on the platform, so the bulk of the revenue comes from those subscriptions.