Redefining Fandom with Encore

Mike Sorgenfrei recognizes that being a fan is more than how much you can spend, or if you purchase tickets or not. However, for most teams today, that is the only factor they can keep track of, causing them to miss the opportunity to engage with numerous fans.

As CEO and Co-Founder of Encore, a company from our 2022 leAD Lake Nona Sports & Health Tech Accelerator cohort, Mike and his team are constructing a means of transforming fandom into a valuable asset. Their proprietary Fan ID protocol can be added to customers’ existing websites and apps with just a few lines of code so that this single connection can identify fans and verify their behavioral data. This method enables creators, such as athletes, universities, teams, leagues, musicians, or brands, to use any current or future user engagement tools or platforms, while acquiring first-party data on their users across all points of contact. Six months after taking the stage for Demo Day of the Lake Nona Accelerator, Mike shares lessons learned in his early days as a CEO and his outlook on the ever-evolving future of fandom.

What lessons have you learned in the early days as CEO of Encore?

Startups are an ultramarathon relay race. You need to understand your north star to know where you are going, have a deep conviction on why you are willing to suffer through all the miles and fight through the pain, and you need to have the best team possible that you can trust to grab the baton and keep on going.

What was the inspiration for starting Encore?

All of the co-founders are out-of-market sports fans. Nat is a Manchester United fan living in NYC, Kyano is a Knicks fan living in Tel Aviv, and I’m a Warriors fan who hasn’t lived in The Bay in over 10 years. We understand what it’s like to have clubs constantly emailing us pushing us to buy season tickets when that’s not how we support our clubs or show our fandom. Because of these first-hand experiences, we wanted to build a better way for clubs to identify fans and verify fan behavior across all platforms (not just ticketing and in-arena activations).

What are three values that are core to the Encore brand?

Three values that are core to our brand are:
1. There is no wrong way to be a fan.
2. How much you spend does not equate to how much of a fan you are.
3. Users will want to turn their data and identity into an asset.

How do you see the fan experience and overall fandom evolving in the coming years?

The fan experience will continue to get more and more personalized. As teams and leagues expand globally, they will leverage countless fan engagement tools to create bespoke experiences for all types of fans. This will diversify revenue streams for clubs and unlock new ways for fans to show their fandom.

What do you see as the most important factor that leads to innovation within the sports/health tech industry?

Those that are most effective at innovating will be able to navigate the opposing forces of change. There is a lot of history and a lot of passion within sports, and for the industry to evolve — for the fan experience to evolve — things must change. We’re seeing this play out in MLB right now with the introduction of the pitch clock. Some folks love this change, others hate it. Innovation will have to not only convince folks of the amazing new capabilities but also how it’s similar to what the industry already knows and loves.

To learn more about Encore, check out the company’s feature in SBJ’s Startup Series and Mike’s founder story in Disrupt Magazine.