We talked to Adam Grossman of B6A about its sponsorship technology and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Adam Grossman: We are doing well and appreciate you asking. Hopefully, your family is doing well too.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded B6A.
Adam Grossman: In between my first and second year at NYU, I got an internship with the Washington Capitals, and one project that came up was trying to find a sponsor for the first female fan club in the NHL at the time, which was the Scarlet Caps. The marketing group wanted to work with the sponsorship team to figure out the best way to get a sponsor, and essentially I figured out there was not necessarily a good answer for how you value sponsorship and how you can display that value to potential partners. If the Capitals were struggling with this problem, I figured other sports teams, leagues, events, and athletes would have similar struggles.
How does B6A innovate?
Adam Grossman: Block Six Analytics (B6A) is an industry-leading sponsorship technology and analytics company that works with Fortune 500 companies, global media organizations, large agencies, and major professional sports teams. Our clients leverage our machine learning products, proprietary analytics, and customized dashboards to determine cross-channel, company-specific asset insights that drive incremental revenue growth. Sports properties, agencies, and brands are using B6A’s platform to create a truly interactive experience focused on delivering sponsorship value. Our machine learning technology helps our clients generate incremental revenue growth and reduce reporting costs. We use our technology and analytics to determine the value of television viewable billboards, signage, calls-to-action, and social media conversation.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Adam Grossman: While the coronavirus did (and can still) impact our business, we have been fortunate to see an increasing demand in product offerings. In addition, our team, led by COO Gabe Ottolini, has functioned very well while working at home. We have been able to communicate effectively via Slack and other shared communication platforms.
How do you apply your sports background to your current career?
Adam Grossman: I was the goalkeeper for the Northwestern men’s soccer team in undergrad. Soccer is a team sport, but at times being a keeper is a very isolating position. That taught me about being a decision-maker when running my business. Often people think you must be crazy to be a goalie. There’s a lot of potential downsides. If the ball goes in, you can almost always pinpoint some of the blame on the goalie, right? The upside is you potentially make a save, but a lot of being a goalie isn’t actually making that save. It’s putting yourself in position, one, to avoid a shot coming on goal in the first place by helping to position your teammates, but, two, putting yourself in the best position to make sure you could save the ball. That’s all very similar to entrepreneurship. The vast majority of the time, you’re putting yourself in a position to be successful so you can have that successful sales meeting or do that successful pitch to an investor or hire the right people or get good people interested in the company, so they want to work there. That’s a lot of what you’re doing.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and B6A in the future?
Adam Grossman: When you’re in the day to day of any business, it is often hard to see the successes. One of the things you have to be aware of is if it were easy to start a company, almost anybody would do it because there’s so much potential upside. But it isn’t easy to do. There’s just constantly dealing with issues and stress, and the people who are successful are the ones who translate that stress into productivity. It’s obviously great to see us be successful, but when you’re looking at it day to day, it can be difficult to see that.
One way to deal with stress is that you need people to be successful in their position. I think it took us a long time to get there with B6A, but it’s one of those things you have to focus on, particularly as you’re getting started. There are going to be a lot of people who have position fluidity, but essentially, you need people to be successful and understand what their roles are and how you can effectively position people to be successful. If you’re constantly thinking about how you can position other people to be successful rather than thinking about what you’re doing on your own, you are likely doing the right thing. The best thing, in theory, for a goalkeeper is that they never face a shot on goal because they’ve set up the defense to be in a position to block a shot from ever coming in on goal. I think, when you’re getting started from an entrepreneurial perspective, the more you can prevent things from getting to a bad spot, the better.
How do you differentiate yourself?
Adam Grossman: We’re able to create differentiated products that directly address our clients’ needs in ways that drive revenue. Our clients can work with a lot of different providers, and being able to clearly articulate our points of differentiation has separated ourselves — I think we’ve really hit our stride. It was very gratifying to hear them say, “Yes, this is what we want to do.” One company literally told me, “We’ve looked at what you could provide, and we fell in love with what you’re doing.” For a company of that size and that scale to tell us that as part of their review process was really validating. We’ve now added a bunch of new clients to longer-term deals, and we now have people who worked with some of our clients and moved onto other organizations and want to bring us into those organizations. Clients refer us to other clients. You see the team really starting to hit its stride and being able to say, “This is what we can do, this is how we can deliver it, this is how we add value, and this is why we’re going to be successful in helping you achieve your goals.” Being able to say that confidently, and have successful results, and have the validation of these larger organizations has been really gratifying.
Your final thoughts?
Adam is B6A’s founder and recognized industry leader. He co-authored The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders For A High-Performance Industry and chapters in multiple books. His work has been featured in Forbes, SportsBusiness Journal, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and SportTechie. He was selected as Crain’s Chicago 2020 Notable Entrepreneur. He also teaches at Northwestern University’s Masters of Sports Administration program and launched the school’s Revenue Above Replacement podcast.