With the AFLW season well underway and the men’s competition just around the corner, sports training startup Fit for Footy is getting in on the action with a strategic partnership with the AFL.
Founded by Leroy Lobo and Geelong Cats vice-captain Patrick Dangerfield, Fit for Footy launched in August 2018. Since then, it has racked up more than 20,000 users.
The app provides users with a personalised training schedule based on things such as age, fitness, skill levels and body weight, including nutrition and hydration advice.
Through the partnership, the AFL will provide marketing for the app and support in distribution, while Fit for Footy will work with the grassroots footy community to help keep players engaged and on track in their training.
Speaking to StartupSmart, Lobo says the startup has been having “pretty open conversations” with the AFL for the best part of 10 months.
The app was built “knowing there was an opportunity in the market and a gap in the marketplace,” he says.
“There was a natural synergy there.”
Having Dangerfield as a co-founder has given the startup something of a headstart.
Right from the early days “it legitimised what we were doing”, Lobo says.
“We both want similar things, which is important,” he adds.
“You have to both be vested and interested and motivated by the same reasons.”
As an active player and personality in the Aussie rules community, Dangerfield has a unique perspective as to what kinds of tools are required both at a professional and grassroots level.
“He’s at the coal face, trying to go out and develop the game,” Lobo says.
Partnering with the AFL is “significant”, Lobo says, and something that was a goal right from the start.
“Partnering with the governing body in any sport is obviously a huge step,” he says.
However, he hints at more developments in the pipeline.
“In the product roadmap, this isn’t the end point, it’s the start,” he says.
Currently, the team is working on building the Fit for Footy app and increasing engagement, figuring out “what makes our app sticky”.
However, “at some point we will look to commercialise”, Lobo says.
The startup has been self-funded so far, but Lobo says he would consider raising capital if the right partner came along.
The founders are not actively looking for backers at the moment, but are “open to discussion”, he says.
“We’re open to the right people at the right time,” he adds.
Securing 20,000 downloads in less than a year was largely down to Fit for Footy’s social media and digital strategy, Lobo says.
“We realised a lot of the players connect with their fans through Instagram,” he adds.
“That was a strong way of building new users.”
Around the time of the launch, Fit for Footy had player ambassadors posting about the app, while also creating content to help the website itself with search engine optimisation.
Ultimately, it gained traction and exposure in print and TV media.
However, some of the growth has come organically through word of mouth, Lobo says.
“We’ve found people enjoy what our app is and share it with teammates … that’s helped us in terms of growing the user base,” he adds.
The content is provided by AFL and AFLW players, and is demonstrated and explained by the pros. Users appreciate having access to insights from the highest echelons of the sport, Lobo explains.
“Everyone who plays sport is trying to do what they do at the elite level,” he says.
“They may not be aspiring to the elite level, but they’re at least giving it their best shot,” he adds.
For other startups trying to tap into a community and engage with their user base, Lobo says it’s important to find partners to collaborate.
“People are often scared of collaborating and working with others because they feel they will have less of the pie,” he says.
“But if you collaborate with the right people, it helps you grow.”
Partnerships may make the business “a bit more cumbersome”, but as long as you understand your partners, and what they can bring to the startup, they can be extremely valuable, Lobo says.
He also notes that founders have to understand the demographic they’re trying to reach, and “understand which channels they want to be communicated with through”.
If Fit for Footy is trying to reach the younger demographic of sports fans, it uses social media.
For older customers – parents, or people involved in AFL at the club level, they may not reach them through digital means. Instead, the founders consider attending an event and networking more traditionally.
Finally, Lobo says he has learnt to change his mindset around influencers. They’re not just on social media, he says.
The real influencers could be out in the community — the presidents of sporting clubs, or key parents at kids’ clubs.
“Influencers come in all shapes and sizes,” Lobo says.