How Vertical Mass is helping bands and sports teams really understand their fans

by John Siegel
November 29, 2016

When tech veteran Mark Shedletsky moved to Los Angeles to take over the digital department at XIX Entertainment, he was presented with a challenge he had faced as a marketer for years: finding a way for brands to profit from their fan base outside of ticket sales and merchandise.

Despite their massive following, entertainment brands — sports teams, bands and celebrities — regularly struggle to profit from their community of followers. As Shedletsky researched potential solutions, it became clear that the solution was in the data. 

"I became fascinated by data and how it had the power to be cross-platform,” said Shedletsky. “As the audiences migrate from platform to platform, which they tend to do every few years, data is consistent. We can stitch together a number of data points to build a consumer profile. It's really valuable for the owners of that data and for the companies that want to reach those consumers.”

Shedletsky created Vertical Mass in 2013 to help brands use data to identify segments in their fan base in order to craft more personalized marketing campaigns. In the past, if a sports team wanted to send out a reminder about purchasing season tickets, it would send an email to every email address it had collected. By identifying specific consumer profiles within the fanbase, with Vertical Mass the team is able to personalize their message depending on a particular profile’s level of engagement, making their marketing efforts more effective than simple email blasts or banner ads.

"That notion of building both the aggregate of the fan base and the unified fan, the consumer that does three particular things that matter to a brand, is massively important for that organization,” said Shedletsky. “The ability to identify a user as high value allows the organization to put the right messaging in front of them. And if one of their sponsors wants to reach that user with their advertising, then the organization can find a way to do that.” 

Unlike companies looking to acquire potential customers, entertainment brands already have a dedicated group of followers, but they need a way to turn the support into dollars. The Vertical Mass platform means brands can use its fans’ behaviors to build smarter marketing strategies, allowing them to measure something like return on investment, something that wasn’t really possible before.

“If I'm a brand spending a lot of money on sponsorships and endorsement deals and I'm aligning my brand with these passion points from my consumers, there was no information as to how you make the decision on who to align with,” said Shedletsky. “Essentially the decision was based on budget and we've built a profile of who we think our consumer is.” 

The startup announced a $5 million Series A in October, which included contributions from Santa Monica-based Canyon Capital, Greycroft Partners and the San Francisco 49ers. Originally based in Culver City, the company relocated to its current location on Sunset Boulevard within walking distance of historic rock clubs like The Troubadour, The Roxy and The Whisky a Go Go.

"I feel like there is a perceived benefit to being in Santa Monica or Venice, certainly from a recruiting standpoint, but it costs you twice as much to be located in that area,” said Shedletsky. “For us, it was equally as important to be a part of the rock and roll community as it was the tech community from a location standpoint, and it doesn’t get better than West Hollywood for that.” 

As the Vertical Mass team continues to build out the platform, Shedletsky, a native of Toronto who has worked in New York City and San Francisco, said he has big expectations for LA’s tech community. 

“The whole underdog thing has been playing out for a while,” said Shedletsky. “When I worked in San Francisco, I felt like an outsider there, but down here there are a lot of people who are very open to being collaborative, and everybody helps each other out and I think we've evolved to the point where we no longer have to prove to the world that LA is a great tech hub. It’s a really welcoming place to do business.”


Images via Flickr.

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