Parents of children under the age of 18 have likely heard of i9 Sports, the largest multi-sport provider and the leading youth sports league franchise in the country.
With franchise operations in 35 states—and over 3.5 million registrations for youth sports programs like flag football, soccer, basketball, baseball, lacrosse and volleyball—i9 Sports has a seemingly recession-proof business model. Youth sports is a huge industry that’s continued to grow during i9 Sports’ 19-year existence. And parents consider everything that i9 Sports delivers—sports instruction, healthy competition and fun—to be a priority in their families’ lives (rather than a luxury).
Poised for Growth
In 2019, i9 Sports was already strong, and on a continued growth trajectory. The company was seeking an analytics software to support its goals to expand its franchise network as well as a supportive professional services team to help i9 Sports reach its goals. That search led to SiteSeer Technologies.
“We had been using a mapping software to that point, but we needed something more powerful with more features,” says Mike Carty, Business Operations Manager for i9 Sports. “We’d heard about SiteSeer Pro and decided to take a demo.”
Carty says that immediately, the i9 Sports’ leadership team appreciated tools like SiteSeer’s Automated Territory Optimization Model, mapping, reports and customer analytics. “As a franchise organization, the ability to build franchise territories with ATOM™ based on data and our internal goals and rules was very appealing. Obviously, we want to maximize franchise locations, but we want to ensure we’re approaching this thoughtfully and choosing the right sites so our franchisees can be successful.” i9 Sports signed on as a SiteSeer client in 2019.
“As a franchise organization, the ability to build franchise territories with ATOM™ based on data and our internal goals and rules was very appealing. Obviously, we want to maximize franchise locations, but we want to ensure we’re approaching this thoughtfully and choosing the right sites so our franchisees can be successful.”
Pandemic Disruption: 2020
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, i9 Sports felt the effects. “We shut down most of our spring 2020 programs and had all the same questions that other businesses had,” says Carty.
But through a strategy that included adjusting programming to prioritize safety and incorporating new safety protocols, i9 Sports was able to return to new-normal business operations quickly. The company also put SiteSeer to work.
Visualizing Internal Data
i9 Sports worked with the SiteSeer Technologies professional services team to customize reports and maps to help them run their business better. “We set up an API to show where our registrations are around the country on maps, which has been a great way to understand our business,” Carty says. “It’s easy to make edits in those maps, which was not the case with our old software. Everything in SiteSeer is quick-click editing, which is great for us.”
Carty says that adding data layers easily allows him to view franchise territories. “Our numbers are constantly changing, because households with children ages 3 to 14 are who we serve, and the members of households get older. It’s a moving target, so it’s essential that our demographic data is current. The visualization of that data has been great for us.”
"A tool like this helps us do things right and takes the ‘human emotion’ element out of these decisions, so we’re less likely to overlook factors and make mistakes.”
At i9 Sports, the SiteSeer platform is used by a wide range of employees, and it’s useful for them all in different ways. “Our sales team and operations team use SiteSeer to evaluate franchise territories and present solid options to franchisee candidates,” Carty says. “Our franchise business coaches use SiteSeer to scout venues where we can run our sports programs, and to evaluate the trade areas surrounding those venues to see if they fit our criteria. We’re all finding SiteSeer to be quite useful. A tool like this helps us do things right and takes the ‘human emotion’ element out of decisions, so we’re less likely to overlook factors and make mistakes.”
Best Year Yet
i9 Sports’ efforts have paid off.
The company had its best year in history in 2021, both from a registration and revenue standpoint. “Coming out of the pandemic, people were excited to get outside again and resume normal things like letting their kids play sports, and I think a lot of the effort we put into ensuring safe play during COVID has helped us since,” Carty says. i9 Sports opened 21 new franchises in 2021 and welcomed its 200th franchise location in June 2022. According to the Franchise Times, only 16% of the 3,000 franchise systems operating in the United States have surpassed 100 units.
SiteSeer: Exceptional Service and Tools
The future is bright for i9 Sports, with the growth continuing into 2022. Carty says that the company plans to sell all available franchise territories in the United States and then expand internationally down the road. SiteSeer’s site selection, market analysis, customer analysis and other tools will help them get there.
“SiteSeer’s team has been so responsive, and they have worked with us—a unique business—to develop tools and reports that help us analyze our business effectively. We’ve never been able to get the kind of analytics that are really custom to what we do.”
And yet, despite plenty of hand-holding, Carty adds that i9 Sports is able to dive deep into any data using SiteSeer’s powerful platform. “We don’t call SiteSeer on a daily basis and we don’t need to,” he says. “But in the time we’ve used SiteSeer, we have found that while the tools are easy to use and intuitive, the SiteSeer team is always there for you when you need them. The SiteSeer team will help you, whether you need customer reports or something else. Customer service was what we were seeking when we found SiteSeer, and they have delivered.”
Learn more about SiteSeer by contacting the SiteSeer team.