Hoping for Offline Advantage

Internet coaching company, Lynnfield, MA, is confident that star power and an offline revenue stream will give it an advantage over its main online competitor,

Olympic figure skating medalist Nancy Kerrigan and National Hockey League star Adam Oates are among the pros who will help promote SportsInstruction and coach participants online and in its offline training camps.

The voices and images of Kerrigan, Oates and the company are being used now at to offer athletic tips and urge visitors to register to receive the SportsInstruction newsletter.

“This is where celebrity endorsements are at their best because they are actually helping sell something that they do,” said Jerry Solomon, CEO of Stargames, Lynnfield, MA. Stargames is a principal investor in SportsInstruction.

The start-up, which is funded by Thunderbolt Capital Corp., Northbrook, IL, will feature archived instructional video clips, game analysis, one-on-one e-mail question-and-answer forums, daily tips, chat sessions, games and contests.

Revenue is expected to come from advertising and e-commerce along with various baseball, basketball, hockey, football and golf training camps that will be staffed by professional athletes and coaches.

Solomon said his company, which will not officially launch until February, already has an advantage over pure-play competitor MySportsGuru.

“We're prepared to go after the same group [ages 8 to 25] as MySportsGuru is after, but I think we're doing it differently,” Solomon said. “They're virtually a 100 percent online play, and we aren't.”

He said SportsInstruction's athletic camps produce something MySportsGuru does not: an offline revenue source.

Paul Butcher, executive vice president of business development at MySportsGuru, said, “Our approach has been to partner with people who have camps, although we don't actually have our own.”

Butcher thinks market share — not offline commerce — is the key to success in his industry.

“There are a number of other companies looking to jump into online sports instruction,” he said. “We've found that what you need in this marketplace is a large audience in order to be financially viable. It's not easy to grow a membership base.”

To create a buzz and grow its own membership base, SportsInstruction is collecting e-mail addresses at its Web site. An e-mail newsletter will go to those who opt in.

The company is also filming short vignettes to air on Nickelodeon Games and Sports, a digital television offering. The short clips will feature 2000 Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Eric Fonoimoana and others endorsing SportsInstruction and offering athletic tips, Solomon said.

Television will be the main source of spreading the word “but in the form of sponsorships, not straight advertising,” Solomon said.

He also described his perfect sponsorship: “We'd like to cut a deal with FoxSports New England so that twice during a Celtics telecast we are referred to as the sponsor of an instructional moment. Analysts would critique a bad free throw shot and they say, 'This lesson was brought to you by' “

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