Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hi! It’s me, Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference in healthcare for all of us around the world! Today’s rockstar is Ishveen Jolly, the co-founder and CEO of OpenSponsorship, who’s working towards SDG 5: Gender Equality.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining us all the way from London, Ishveen! Tell me what challenge you are addressing through OpenSponsorship. We’re all ears!
Ishveen: Glad to be here, Spiffy—thanks for inviting me! We know that sports has the power to unite people and nations; but how many realize that sponsorship is the financial backbone of sports helping athletes, teams, and events to exist? We are using technology, data, and innovation to make the sponsorship industry more efficient and effective. In the 60-billion-dollar sponsorship industry, the non-top 5% of athletes and properties often have a tougher time finding sponsorship. We focus our attention on them.
Spiffy: I hadn’t really thought about that much, but you’re right! So, what motivates you to do it?
Ishveen: I love our mission to make the sponsorship industry more accessible and efficient for all. This keeps me going for sure. On top of that, I love that I am able to bring smart, talented, and passionate individuals together to solve a really tough problem. Knowing that we are making a real difference and that my team is loving being part of the journey is amazing. I also love solving problems using technology—it's scalable, quick, and amazing to see how we take real-life problems and solve them through a website or mobile app.
Spiffy: What would you say is the impact of your work?
Ishveen: We help brands, athletes, agents, teams, and events. Basically everyone in the world of sponsorship. And we ultimately also help fans, because sponsors (a) help athletes to connect to their fanbase, and (b) thanks to sponsorship funding, athletes can focus more on their sport versus getting a second job—mostly relevant for individual sport athletes.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent OpenSponsorship milestone or initiative, and the impact it makes on your community.
Ishveen: We recently launched for music as well, which is very exciting and absolutely needed. Music sponsorship has the same issue as sports, where the top 5% get most of the revenue, and it's very hard to find deals for, or do deals with the non-top 5%.
Spiffy: How exciting! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience before I let you go?
Ishveen: Sponsorship is an amazing form of marketing that to date has been silo-ed, so it's run by a different department, by different agencies, and with different budgets. For the first time we are ensuring that sponsorship is part of mainstream marketing—we help everyday marketers use and understand sponsorship. This means it gets more dollars and becomes more widely adopted.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Ishveen—it’s been an honor!
Ishveen Jolly is a trailblazer in the sports marketing industry having built OpenSponsorship.com into the world's largest marketplace connecting brands to athletes for digital marketing campaigns. Her accolades include getting on the Forbes 30U30 sports list, Inc's top 100 female founders list, and raising over $5M for the company including from NBA and team owner David Blitzer, athletes such as Serena Williams and Baron Davis, notable VCs, and her Alma Mater Oxford University. (First published on the Ladderworks website on January 18, 2023.)© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.