Crowdfunding lets fans share Olympic dream: Mudhar

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Toronto Star  | By: Tech Reporter, Published on Sat Sep 21 2013

pursuit amateur athletesAs the next Winter Olympics at Sochi loom, we will soon start hearing those perennial bad news stories about the lengths to which amateur athletes must go to acquire funding to train and compete. But this time, perhaps, a positive can be found, matching it to one of the hottest stories in social media and technology — crowdfunding.

With the huge success of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, a week doesn’t go by without a story of a product, movie or creative pursuit being supported by the donations of backers, and the sports world has taken notice.

There are at least two athlete-specific crowdfunding sites in Canada, Pursu.it and Makeachamp.com. Internationally, there are others like RallyMe, Sportsfunder and Involvedfan, so it is a clearly a growth area.

Pursu.it started up just a year ago and was co-founded by Julia Rivard, a former Olympic kayaker, who beyond wanting to help with money, hopes to break the believe-in-and-then-forget cycle with amateur athletes and the Olympic Games.

“I really think there are people all over the country that want to support these athletes, this is really about offering that conduit. Canadians are givers, and want to support causes, it’s just they haven’t been able to have that direct link to the athletes,” says Rivard.

“It’s really kind of hard to know who these athletes are. You hear about them at the Games, and then you don’t hear about them again. It’s hard to recall some of the athletes in Vancouver who were at top of the podium, and now we can’t even remember their names. They’re still out there training to be at Sochi and to be the best again. And then we’ll get excited and then we’ll forget again. So Pursu.it keeps it top of mind for all the rest of the days in between the Olympic Games.”

Pursu.it works the same way as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, with slick videos of athletes’ stories and “givebacks” — perks or gifts — coming back, depending on the level of donation. Rivard says that the focus isn’t on winning, but rather building personal connections with athletes, and feeling as if people are part of their teams.

Related:  Canadian athletes look to crowdfunding to pay for their Olympic dream

That’s a noble idea, and I am all for anything that can help our athletes succeed, particularly if it can help diminish the put-upon athlete stories. All sports — even those designated as amateur — are treated like a business now, and while many athletes sacrifice to pursue their dreams, it is a job with some great perks — travel, often a free education and improving at a sport being your gig. It is also their choice.

Crowdfunding athletes lets fans become literally invested. That’s what I like best about these ventures, now the choice is in the hands of the public and fans. If you feel Canadian athletic performance is important, then it’s worth checking out these efforts and deciding if you want to support someone with your hard earned dollars.

This movement also leads to the question about just how far sports crowdfunding could be taken. Paul Grossinger wrote a post at Thebestsportsblog.com suggesting that an aggrieved fan base could find a way to buy out a bad owner. Better still would be if a passionate fan base found a way to help build a stadium without using public money or, in this case, money coming from the public who choose to support it. There are issues with both, as the leagues likely wouldn’t allow it (as an example, the Green Bay Packers are the only community-owned team in the NFL, but current leagues rules don’t permit that ownership structure), but it’s fun to think of ways this hot new crowdfunding tech could really change the game.

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One Response to Crowdfunding lets fans share Olympic dream: Mudhar

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