Overtime ends first OTE season with major sponsors

After appearing at SXSW, we spoke with Overtime about how they’re pitching themselves to advertisers.
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Francis Scialabba

5 min read

Some things will always go viral: puppies, simple pasta dishes with too much cheese, the elderly getting jiggy with it, and athletes—mostly children—soaring through the air with a reckless abandonment toward their knee cartilage, delivering unconscionable dunks that would clear any gym.

Overtime, a burgeoning sports media company, has captured the latter category, hoping to build an ESPN for the TikTok and Fortnite crowd. Last week, it wrapped its first ever Overtime Elite (OTE) season, where the company paid teenagers $100,000 to essentially give up their collegiate eligibility in exchange for exposure.

Having just led a discussion at the SXSW festival, Marketing Brew talked to execs at Overtime about the progress it’s made on the sponsorship front and how it’s selling itself to advertisers.

Rewind: If you’re not familiar, since launching in 2016, Overtime has become many things:

  • As noted above, it’s a legit basketball league.
  • It’s a social media behemoth, with an audience of at least 33.4 million across TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, predominantly serving people between the ages of 18 and 34.
  • It’s a reality-television network, portraying the personal lives of young athletes, be they on the precipice of competing in NASCAR or the NBA.

“We do many things, but we are now squarely in the position of creating premium sports IP,” Zack Weiner, Overtime’s president and co-founder, told Marketing Brew.

Though its social feeds are littered with user-generated content, Overtime’s own intellectual property is the prize, creating a virtuous circle comparable to the National Football League and its own NFL Network—the league makes the highlights and the network pumps out the content for advertisers.

Overtime has since raised funds from the likes of Jeff Bezos, Drake, and NBA stars Devin Booker and Pau Gasol, bringing its value to a reported $250 million with aims to hit $200 million in revenue by 2024, according to Business Insider.

Dealz: It’ll get there by continuing to ink sponsorships. To kick off OTE’s first season, the league signed deals with the likes of Gatorade, Meta, and State Farm. While State Farm is listed as the “exclusive on-campus home, auto, and life insurance sponsor” for the league, Meta Quest hosted a dunk contest.

Though Gatorade has long had relationships with professional leagues like the NBA and the NFL, the partnership with Overtime—which includes an ingame presence and sponsored video segments—was an opportunity for the brand to show up as a cultural touchstone, explained Kalen Thornton, Gatorade’s CMO.

“We really want to be able to evolve from a sports-fuel company to a brand that’s fueling sport culture. That was a top-line opportunity and Overtime certainly is playing a place in both,” he told Marketing Brew. Its emphasis on “snackable content” curated for Gen Z audiences, gave the brand access to a younger, more elusive audience.

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It also certainly doesn’t hurt that Gatorade’s given access to athletes—again, many high school age—before they’ve had a chance to reach a broader audience, said Thornton, pointing towards Overtime’s promotion of Zion Williamson, the phenom hoops player that put Overtime on the map for many.

“If we can get relationships with the next Zion Williamson, the next Jayson Tatum and start to foster that, that’s invaluable, that’s priceless,” he said.

Not so easy

One question Rich Calacci, Overtime’s CRO, gets constantly from media buyers and potential sponsors: “What is Overtime?” He told Marketing Brew that even if a media buyer’s teenager knows the brand, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily ready to write checks.

Two media buyers at Magna who spoke with Marketing Brew admitted to having little knowledge of Overtime, other than to say one of them had taken a meeting with the brand several years ago.

“We take meetings with partners like [Overtime] all the time and the first question is always,  ‘Where can I find this and where’s my client going to be shown? Where’s the visibility going to be?’” said Brian Castagna, VP of strategic investment at Magna. “I pictured it like an IMG Academy-like place, but they’re actually paid.”

It is a fair question. Though Overtime has millions of followers across its social platforms, live OTE games aren’t broadcast. “We have purposefully not live-broadcasted any games…we believe the rights are really lucrative but we want to work with a partner on that,” said Weiner. 👀

Still, he believes recent deals show that Overtime has become legitimized in the eyes of advertisers. “In the past, I would say year, we’ve crossed that threshold where advertisers and marketers are aware of us,” he said.

To Calacci, Overtime is more comparable to ESPN’s origin story, offering access to an audience interested in nothing but pure, unadulterated sports content. But, you know, with a league of its own.

“I think with each passing year, as the younger half of our core demographic starts getting into the business community…it’s just a matter of time until everyone who’s in positions of power and authority and buying are keenly aware of Overtime,” said Calacci. It’s only a matter of time.

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