Former Raven Opens Tech Business


Although Under Armour is one of Fluencr's first clients, owner Kevin Plank should cover his ears.

Former Ravens safety Gerome Sapp says one of the best pieces of advice he's ever gotten came from Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti: "Just do it."

Sapp, who was drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2003 draft and played in Baltimore for three seasons (2003, 2006, 2007), began his entrepreneurial second career by starting a sports apparel company worn by Navy Seals. Now, he's launched Fluencr, a cutting edge social media marketing tool inspired by a lifelong curiosity about the power of influence.

Amidst a landscape of struggling NFL retirees, Sapp is an exception.

"I created a marketplace that allows any individual to now connect with their favorite brand or initiative," Sapp said. "They can prove to them how socially effective they can be as an ambassador."

Ambassadors could be anybody with a social media account on Facebook, Twitter, etc., who demonstrates that they're influential through retweets, shares, and other means. Fluencr helps companies connect with these ambassadors and set up a rewards system for them.

Fluencr launched in early March at South by Southwest (SXSW) and has already gained clients such as Under Armour and Fandango. The site will launch its mobile technology in the fall.

Sapp, 32, got the idea after being a brand ambassador throughout his football career. He was a Reebok All-American in high school, a Notre Dame team captain who sat in on Adidas business meetings, then a Nike and Under Armour athlete in the NFL.

He was always baffled that brands enlisted him to market their products even though he was never a household name.

"I was always questioning, 'Why did they think I was influential? I wasn't known to the world," said Sapp, who played five seasons in the NFL as a backup defensive back. "Brands still felt that I was influential enough to give free products to."

The business/finance major took advantage of his NFL resources. He used the league to enroll in Harvard Business School, but his best decision may have been picking Bisciotti's brain.

"I was always interested not only in the business of football but the business behind football. That was interesting," Sapp said. "Mr. Bisciotti was always gracious enough to entertain those thoughts and questions, and really helped me understand the big picture."

Sapp began asking questions as a rookie, then graduated to long discussions in Bisciotti's office during his second stint with the Ravens. (He spent two years in Indianapolis.)

Sapp asked Bisciotti why and how he became an owner, and how he made his money. It wasn't every day that they had these conversations, but it was often enough to make a significant impact on Sapp.

"Most people in life can't get over the hurdle of just doing it," Sapp recalled Bisciotti telling him. "If you believe in something so much, if you're passionate about it, don't stumble over your own self, your own fears of just doing it. Most people, before they even start, they fail, because they just don't do it. I remember that like it was yesterday because it was so powerful."

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