Looking for ways IT can create new revenue streams? Here's what the USTA CIO is doing

Looking for ways IT can create new revenue streams? Here's what the USTA CIO is doing

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Introducing digital engagement is something we focus on a lot at the United States Tennis Association. One of the artifacts of creating our new digital ecosystem is that we’re trying to become the hub of e-commerce in the tennis world. But instead of trying to own everything — trying to be the innovators for everything — what we’re saying to the tennis community in the United States is, “We’ve got the biggest database of tennis players. We’ve got access to more people. We’ve got sway with more people and credibility with more people than any other tennis organization in the United States. Instead of trying to compete with you, why don’t we partner with you? Let’s leverage that capability.”

To do that, we’re in the process of creating an API integration layer. This will allow people or organizations with innovative ideas and products of value to the tennis community to integrate their solution into our ecosystem. That means two things:

  1. We have access to a broad audience of tennis players that we would never be able to have access to or market to on our own.
  2. We become the hub of the ecosystem for tennis in the United States because we’re always bringing innovation and new value to our players, and we’re not limiting that innovation just to the stuff that we’ve created in our laboratory.

This is a win-win proposition for everyone. It’s a winner for the players because they get the best of everything. It’s a winner for the providers of solutions and capabilities because now they have access to a larger group of people to market to. And it’s a win for us because we now can bring innovation and capabilities so people will want to come to our properties based on all the value we’re delivering to them.

Of course, we hope that one of the outcomes of this ecosystem is new revenue opportunities, whether that’s partnerships with other organizations where we can monetize innovations or just growing our programming and membership because of the new digital capabilities we bring to bear. We’re not focusing on monetizing things per se; we’re focusing on growing the game and increasing participation. But we do things such that one outcome of that growth will be opportunities to monetize things.

One of the challenges of the USTA is that to most tennis providers in the United States view us as the 800-pound gorilla. The good news in that we’ve got a lot of reaches and a lot of sways. The bad news is that people could view us as competitors or as someone who’s trying to take away from them. We’re trying to change that model so that people see us as somebody who could add value and help them grow their business. And in the process, we increase participation across the entire tennis world in the United States, so we benefit, and they benefit. It’s a paradigm shift, and it’s going to take a culture change in people’s minds, and we’re focused on that.

To the rest of the USTA organization, we’re making the business case for these investments as any business bringing a new product or service to market would have to do. What’s the opportunity, what is the market, what is the potential revenue stream, and what is the ROI? We’re pitching from an ROI of both growing participation — which is the mission of the organization — as well as growing the potential revenue opportunity, which is an excellent benefit. But we’re not just pitching it on the sheer monetization of it. We’re pitching it on the mission end of it, as well. It gives me a lot of confidence that we’re going to be successful on both fronts.

Larry Bonfante is the CIO of the United States Tennis Association and an executive coach at CIO Bench Coach. As an award-winning CIO, Bonfante's mission is to help develop world-class technology leaders and teams who enable their organizations to deliver outstanding business results.

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