Digital Athletes Out To Be First Self-Funded Tennis Stars

MICHAEL MISCHKER is a digital marketing executive and father to a pair of talented tennis players, who he believes can become the first self-funded junior tennis players in the world.

The Global Vice President of Digital Marketing SAP Hybris founded the brand tennisBrothers for his sons Felix and Lucian, and it has built a social media following of over 48,000.

These are a new breed of digital athletes, reimagining marketing and now using the monumental following of tennisBrothers to fund their careers through’s sports crowdfunding platform.

It’s something Mischker calls an “experiment” and is excited to talk about.


“BOTH of my boys are tennis players,” he explains, “and they’re pretty good: Felix (12) was an AEGON Future Star player in 2013, 2014 and 2015, while Lucian (10) is consistently one of the highest ranked junior tennis players in Great Britain.

“At the international Dunlop Junior Tour in the summer of 2015, both finished number one within their age groups.

“The traditional way that they’d build that talent into a career would be to apply for grants and
seek tennis sponsorship.

“The grants that are available are limited though and, as you probably expect, incredibly competitive, and the tennis sponsorship contracts are concentrated more and more at the top of the sport – in 2014, the top one percent of male players received 62 per cent of the available prize-money pool.

Shaking up funding model

“So I want to try something different; I don’t want my boys to have to go begging and scraping
for cash from tennis sponsors. Instead, we’re planning to see whether it’s possible for them to become the first self-funded junior tennis players in the world.”

“Over the last 18 months, under the startup brand tennisBrothers, they’ve already built up a
substantial online following: We now have more than 48,000 followers across various social
media platforms, including 37,000 on Instagram.

“On a daily basis we get more than 1,000 engagements – views, likes and comments. That following has been built up with zero spending of any kind: zero advertising, zero sponsored content, just original, authentic, and entertaining stories.”

“We’re hoping to use that following to fund the Lucian and Felix’s sporting activities in 2016 and beyond, and we’re going to do it in a variety of ways.

“Most importantly, we’re launching a tennisBrothers crowdfunding on PledgeSports, a leading, award-winning, sports crowdfunding platform that gives sports people the chance to raise money to pursue their dreams.

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Advantages for supporters

“In return for contributions, fans and brands get different rewards based on their contributions, from a shoutout on Twitter to a full media campaign executed through our tennisBrothers fanbase.

“Supporting a digital athlete’s crowdfunding campaign has many advantages for brands. They first and foremost get the opportunity to tap into an existing community, joining the dialogue alongside the athletes and becoming part of the “family”, while increasing sales, revenue streams and their own social engagements.

“A community in which fans get authentic stories, the feeling of being part of a journey, and the ability to actively engage and react daily with new developments in an athlete’s (tennis Brothers) life.

“In this context, brands are seen as helping, not intruding. The athletes get to further their careers.”

Analysing the audience

“Young audiences are fed up of being “talked at” or “sold to”, and have begun to ignore traditional marketing approaches. Instead, online influencers are increasingly holding the power to influence purchasing decisions and more and more corporations are waking up to the fact that they need to fundamentally change the way they engage with that demographic.

“To be clear though, this isn’t about taking corporate cash for athletes to parrot marketing messages. It’s about helping brands to meaningfully engage with an audience – the trust that an athlete’s fans have is valuable and can be easily lost if bad decisions are made. Getting the balance right is hard but the payoff is enormous.”

Join tennis Brothers’ journey to Wimbledon and beyond right here on Find their campaign by clicking here.

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