There was a time not so long ago when the business of college recruiting fell to those who would eventually coach student-athletes…the coaches at any intercollegiate institution. However as competition became more diverse, and young people became more focused on a specific sport that they could play on an intercollegiate level, tie dynamic for the recruiting process shifted. Whereas once an open tryout, where thousands of kids may show up to be watched by collegiate coaches, or a showcase event where elite athletes and their teams would play against other elite athletes, were the norm, the advent of social media and the digital space has given a student-athlete, any student-athlete, the ability to showcase him or herself to a legion of schools who may not have had the chance to see him or her play. The new era of recruiting has also helped cash-strapped schools who could not be on the road to see every young athlete perform. Instead of miles logged in cars and trains and planes, astute coaches can now use their laptops to streamline and manage the recruiting process more efficiently.
With the new era of recruiting also comes a great opportunity for brands to more efficiently reach young athletes and their families. One of those outlets that has provided the greatest possible platform is berecruited.com, the nation’s largest college online recruiting platform.
With college and high school candidates return to school over the next few weeks, we caught up with Vishwas Prabhakara is the CEO of beRecruited, a sports digital industry veteran, to talk about the online recruiting business, where it has been and where it is going.
How is the market evolving in the recruiting business these days?
Like many industries, we’re seeing that the internet results in a greater flow of information, making processes more efficient. As a result, student-athletes and parents are able to start sooner, be more proactive, and have significantly more options at all levels than was possible even 5-10 years ago. For coaches, geographic reach and the depth of information has increased exponentially. It is easier to identify talent, do more diligence, and keep in touch. beRecruited and its over one million users help drive down the cost, in terms of time, dollars, and risk, of collegiate athletic recruiting.
With the high cost of tuition today, is there any way to tell how sites like beRecruited and others in the space have saved parents who otherwise may not have had their kids seen by schools?
There are many success stories for both beRecruited athletes and coaches. While we don’t collect exact dollar amounts, based on our commitment data and national averages, we estimate that beRecruited has saved student-athletes and their families between $500 million and $1 billion in the last 4 years alone. In addition, beRecruited drives down the cost of recruiting itself, with free membership and aggressively-priced premium options made possible by our unmatched scale and use of technology.
So many schools have looked abroad for recruiting top student-athletes. What is that market like for sites like yours outside of the States [ United States ]?
There is certainly a wealth of talent abroad, and beRecruited is available to those athletes to register and use the service. However, often times international students have a variety of specific needs that required specialized attention. Thus, we find that online recruiting is a great starting point, but often there are other individuals that assist in the process.
So much emphasis is put on the elite camps, especially during the summer months. How does the service assist schools in sorting out that process?
Camps are an integral part of collegiate recruiting, and beRecruited helps coaches and athletes in three key ways:
By creating more connections between student-athletes and coaches (now over 1,000,000 coach-athlete connections per month), more qualified athletes are invited to the best camps; After participating in camps, athletes are able to distribute performance data, photos and videos instantaneously to coaches via beRecruited; beRecruited offers affordable camp listings and other basic marketing services to coaches to get the word out about their camps.
What is the best recruiting story you have come across?
There are countless amazing stories we have heard from our users, and each story is unique. Stories ranging from a 4’10” running back playing college football on scholarship to students who found their ideal school (athletically, academically and culturally) on beRecruited, to students who otherwise would not have attended college without beRecruited due to the cost of tuition. Together, these stories show our users, employees, and the community that there are powerful ways to impact the day-to-day lives of millions with technology.
How do brands benefit form partnerships with the site? Is it more association with the athletes and coaches? Are there activation programs that brands can benefit from?
When we partner with a brand, we ensure it is a win-win situation for both our users and the brand. In addition, we ensure that there is logical fit between what they offer and what our users need. For example, we just launched a partnership with Kaplan that gives every beRecruited user free access to effective test prep tools from Kaplan. In exchange, Kaplan gets great brand exposure to over a million targeted potential customers. For activation, we implemented a unique product integration for Kaplan, so the benefits are automatic when you sign up for a beRecruited account – its another benefit for our users. We expect to follow this win-win partnership and activation model for future partnerships.
How has social media helped your business?
beRecruited has grown because of offline word of mouth – student-athletes telling their peers, and parents telling other parents. Social media has accelerated that process, and also enabled beRecruited to be a part of that conversation on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/berecruited) and Twitter (@berecruited). However, we always ensure that beRecruited is a service delivering the initial introduction between college coaches and student-athletes, and not a social network, per NCAA guidelines.
Is there a time of year when beRecruited is especially beneficial to high school athletes?
Recruiting is a year-round process of training, playing, going to camps, and evaluating and communicating with coaches and admissions departments. However, we do see our highest activity during the back-to-school time frame and early in the calendar year, when decisions about where to attend college are often being made. We have spent the summer redesigning beRecruited’s site and back-end systems to provide an ever-improving feature set for our users.
How will this business [Recruiting?] evolve in the next 5-10 years, what is the next step in marrying data and video in the recruiting process?
In my opinion, the one thing that will definitely change is that you not be able to a successful coach or a successfully recruited as a student-athlete without the use of technology, whether it be on the internet or via your smartphone. Data – including stats, academic info, photos and videos – will be widely available, creating more efficiency and value in the marketplace. A relevant analogy is that beRecruited will do for collegiate athletic recruiting what ebay did for selling products and what LinkedIn is doing for job seekers. I believe the other primary change is that face-to-face interaction, human communication, and relationship-building will become more, not less, important. Technology, and the data it provides, will be a more powerful tool, a filter and way to stay up-to-date for both coaches and student athletes. To close the deal for both coaches and student-athletes, face-to-face interaction will actually become more valuable.