When it comes to kids, the sports world has been sweating it.
Teams across all pro leagues are struggling to connect with young people in the same way they used to. With NFL ratings down 11% this year, NHL playoff ratings down 61% in Canada, and NBA ratings dropping 8.2%, the industry is running the risk of losing out on a whole generation of young fans. Mazu, a new kids club community app out of Kelowna, BC, Canada, sees opportunity in a changing sports landscape.
“Sport was such an obvious partner. The industry has really struggled, which I think they would admit all across the board,” says Janice Taylor, CEO of Mazu. “Teams says they really have lost a generation of viewers because it’s not as engaging for children anymore, and they really felt that they needed to bring that back.”
Mazu—which stands for protector of the seas—has partnered with a number of high-profile sports teams to help boost their brand affinity and offer a way to connect with young people. And they’re hoping it will be a win-win situation.
“We have partnerships now in the NBA, the NFL, the MLS, and we’re moving into Australian football and baseball,” says Taylor.
Mazu has already teamed up with the LA Clippers, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Bills. For each of its partners, Mazu creates a separate app called Club [Fill in the team name], where users can read up on games and complete activities. Think team trivia, matching games (featuring players’ faces) and drawing activities. When kids go to use the chat function, it directs them back to the Mazu main app, which contains general clubs about space, food, cinema, art and other areas.
“The teams wanted their own club experiences that were really about brand affinity,” says Taylor. “So the way that we could do that and still be COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act] certified, because we need to follow COPPA, was to take the messenger outside of the club experience.”
Taylor says that Mazu wanted the live audience that sports teams offer as well as an anchor in major cities that would allow the platform to connect with users.
“We have launch pads in New York, LA, in Toronto and Chicago, so that was the point of going into sports,” says Taylor. “It gives us a great base that we can build around.”
And at 100,000 users, it is not planning on stopping at sports teams.
“If you think of other brands outside of sports that want to speak to a family audience, they need a platform in order to do that,” says Taylor. “Things like NASA, or if you’re a musician or an actor and you want to talk to children, how do you communicate with them directly? So now we’re moving into those other verticals.”
For now, the company will continue to partner with more sports teams. The LA Lakers app will be released this week, and the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers and Women’s Liberty will launch in December. With the addition of new teams coming soon, Mazu expects to reach one million users by September 2017.