SportsMates, Inc. today announced the launch of SportsMates, a global sports social networking service and next-generation community. Fresh out a closed beta, SportsMates, available at http:/www.sportsmates.com/, is the first sports-focused online social networking service dedicated to providing passionate sports fans a free, one-stop communications platform that combines:
-- Social networking. SportsMates members can create their own profiles complete with detailed information about their sporting interests and build a network of their friends. Advanced search functionality is provided which allows members to locate and connect with other sports fans who share similar sporting interests, live in a certain location, etc.
-- Message boards. SportsMates provides full-featured message boards enabling fans to discuss the hottest topics. The message boards contain industry-standard functionality, including sub-forums and advanced post formatting.
-- Blog aggregation. Over 750 of the Internet's top sports blogs are currently aggregated by the SportsMates system and this number is expected to reach over 1,000 by mid-August. SportsMates members can subscribe to their favorite blogs and bloggers can submit their blog for inclusion in the system.
-- Link directories. Fans know the best sports websites and SportsMates allows them to submit their favorites to the SportsMates directory, where other members can recommend and comment on their submissions.
-- Fan directories. SportsMates members can browse through directories of other SportsMates members who like a specific sport, league, team or player.
-- 1000s of groups ("clubs") for sports, leagues, teams and players from around the world. All the above components of SportsMates are combined into "clubs" which allow members to access everything in a single, highly-categorized location. No other service offers more depth and allows members to connect on general or more granular levels.
-- User-created clubs. A true communications platform, SportsMates allows its members to create their own full-featured clubs complete with message boards, a link directory, a member directory, advanced administration and moderation functionality and an internal email campaign system. A Red Sox fan located in New York, for instance, can set up a club specifically for Boston fans in Yankee country. An amateur softball league can set up a club to make communications and scheduling amongst members more efficient. The possibilities are endless and the robust SportsMates platform is an ideal solution for fans, groups and websites that may not have the resources or desire to build and maintain their own online community in-house.
In addition to providing a suite of standard communications tools adapted specifically for sports fans, SportsMates has developed a number of new and innovative features. Chief among these is a proprietary points, rankings and rewards system. SportsMates members earn points and a corresponding ranking for positive contributions. Abuse of the system results in point deductions. SportsMates aims to create one of the most effective self-policing online communities and all aspects of the service are tied in to the rankings system.
SportsMates also takes the "friend of a friend" aspect of social networking to a new level and is the very first service to apply the multi-level marketing concept to it. When a member recruits his or her friends to join SportsMates, he or she receives a percentage of the points the friend earns, a percentage of the points earned by friends that friend recruits and a percentage of points earned by friends that third friend recruits. If those friends lose points due to abuse, points are lost at the same percentages. This encourages members to recruit only friends that they know will make valuable contributions to the SportsMates service and discourages members from inviting friends they think may try to cause trouble.
SportsMates plans to reward members for their passion for sports. The company expects to offer members prizes, special offers, and access to exclusive contests and discounts from sponsors. The higher a member's ranking, the greater the rewards.
"Sports is the perfect niche for a social networking service," states SportsMates, Inc. CEO Blair Cummins. "There are few subjects people are more passionate about. It is one of those rare things that unites people across geography, race, religion and socioeconomic status. The popularity of more general social networking services like MySpace, Facebook and Bebo is incredible, however we believe that the long-term success of any social network is dependent upon providing a tangible reason for users to stick around. Sports is something that people all over the world are passionate about and on a daily basis there is always something happening in the sports world that fans want to follow and communicate about."
SportsMates, Inc. is founded by veterans of the online sports media business. Co-founders Blair Cummins and Richard Austin have been involved in the development of popular online sports properties, both official and unofficial, for the past eight years. Most notably, in 2001 they developed Kournikova.com, the official website of tennis superstar Anna Kournikova, for Terra Lycos. At one point Kournikova.com was widely considered to be the most popular official athlete website in the world and today has over 325,000 registered users. For their work on Kournikova.com, their company, DomainMinds.com, LLC, was nominated for the prestigious Computerworld Honors Program in 2002. But it was the unofficial sports properties Cummins and Austin developed that commanded the most respect and loyalty from users.
"In our experience, unofficial sports websites have always had the greatest appeal," Cummins says. "The popularity of fan-created communities and sports blogs can be attributed to the fact that they're 'real.' Mainstream media is typically sanitized but fans have opinions and bias. They don't just want to read a summary of the game; they want to examine things in more depth and express a viewpoint. Whether or not you agree with somebody's viewpoint, just having one makes everything much more interesting and leads to the most exciting dialog. SportsMates is looking to harness the power of fan-created content and provides every passionate fan with a platform to express opinions and to communicate with other fans. We're truly a service built by fans, for fans."
Sports fans are invited to register for SportsMates at http://www.sportsmates.com/. The fan that earns the most points between July 26 and September 30 will receive $500 worth of sports memorabilia of his or her choice.
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