When I first heard what The Human Baton was up to, I wasn’t sure what to think. A sport where the baton, which is usually a metal pole in a running race, is in fact a human partaking across multiple disciplines of sports seemed a little out there.
However, as I got to know the team, the concept and the trends driving a market demand for a new sport of this type I began to see an opportunity, one that is high-risk, high-reward for those who can see the vision in the early days.
With fragmentation in the way we watch and engage in watching sports and entertainment, this team of brilliant minds including Chris Darnell and Stev Stephens have set out to disrupt the way we think about sports entertainment. Their ideas are bold and daring. Perhaps that is what makes the idea so exciting.
In an age where the likes of American Ninja Warrior and Spartan Races are mainstream, The Human Baton has a new offering that has the opportunity to captivate audiences with a hero’s journey unlike what any of us have seen before.
We sat down with the creators to learn more about their vision and how they plan to win over viewers with their new concept. Get the details below.
Stev, you have quite the background, can you tell us about how your experience in entertainment has led to the founding of the human baton?
I enjoy producing live television and large events, especially when surrounded by a great team. One of my most recent projects was the American Ninja Warrior brand, which our company, The ATS Team franchised internationally. Working alongside Tokyo Broadcasting and Universal television, our team designed, built and operated the Ninja Warrior courses across the United States, and eventually around the world.
In addition, I worked to build productions such as Eco-Challenge: Australia, for Producers such as Mark Burnett, which felt like a dress rehearsal for THB and these experiences set the stage to advance our thinking about what is possible in the world of sports and entertainment.
For those that don’t know, how do you define what the human baton is?
First off, let’s start with THB: Here at THB, we aim to dramatically increase engagement between sports and their audiences given changes in viewing habits. Our objective is to enhance the relationship between sports and their fans, creating deeper connections.
And, through our own technology and leveraging existing technology, we seek to enable these connections by delivering fans and audiences a personalized viewing experience throughout the sports season. Our flagship product, The Human Baton, exemplifies this objective, and THB seeks to apply it to sports leagues around the world.
Now for our flagship product: The Human Baton is a Super Sport Relay Race League where an endurance athlete is passed along the race route as a baton! It is an exciting multi-discipline race series format that integrates GT Super Cars, Drift Cars, Rally Raid Vehicles, Power Boats, Endurance Horses and Helicopters, such that the Baton Athletes are the nexus between the race series and audiences as they train and prepare to race the adventure of a lifetime.
And, they are wired with technology to immerse the world in their adventures, so all of this amazing excitement is experienced first-hand. To see more, give our trailer a watch with the volume up!
Why do you think now is the time for such a unique new form of entertainment with so many moving parts?
We refer to fragmentation in sports and entertainment throughout our pitches, and audience viewership statistics demonstrate that audiences are finding new platforms to view their content, outside of the traditional cable television mediums. With advances in streaming technology and a multitude of platforms for viewing such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops, people can entertain themselves at almost any time and any place.
So, while the viewing public is cutting the cord on their cable and television, we still anticipate a premium viewing experience that caters to our distinct tastes, even though we can enjoy content in places like bus stops, subways, and park benches in almost any city around the world.
As existing broadcast operators and content providers are challenged to maintain or attract new audiences, we aim to offer an ongoing variety of sports and inside stories that speak directly to fans and audiences as individuals rather than large viewing groups. Our content production ethos is the concept that more ‘moving parts’ gives the audience more choices for enjoying the specialized content that comes from the variety it creates.
Can you talk about the different ways to monetize this new league?
THB sees the potential to generate multiple revenue streams through its flagship product, The Human Baton super sport relay race league. Here, revenue is to be principally earned through global sponsorships, VIP hospitality, digital economy (e.g. online revenue), global broadcast rights, team registration fees and race services.
Additional revenue categories include licensing and merchandising. So, these multiple revenue streams are enablers that position THB for high growth, globally at scale. And, these revenue streams enable The Human Baton to move beyond individual, annual or bi-annual events, such that THB can expand the business globally from the outset with its technology and into an annual, competitive series, culminating with a main Premier Event each year-year after year.
How do you hope fans will interact with the show? is this more than just about watching on tv? can fans get involved in other ways?
We learned through our work on the Ninja Warrior franchise, that a passionate audience can help build community around the product, which led to ninja training gyms and off-shoot programming. It is our intention at THB to allow fans and audiences to interact via our technology and media platform directly with the teams, athletes, and producers of the race league.
We anticipate inviting the public to train alongside our athletes and even participate during our training camps, maybe even joining the ranks of competing Baton Athletes during our pre-training events. Over time, we aim to gamify certain aspects of the interactive stories being told by our development team while the athletes are competing. Imagine following your favorite baton athlete as they jump out of a helicopter at 12,000 feet, while trying to collect points during his journey to the ground via our unique user interface. It takes interactive viewing of a sporting event to a captivating, new level.
The Human Baton is looking for Baton Athletes! They are a group of men and women from all around the world and they are endurance athletes, weekend warriors, professionals, and people of varied cultures and orientation – training for an epic race adventure while telling our stories to the world and finding our internal hero.
While their goal is to win, they bring a mission is to stand for something, bettering themselves and the world around us, forever changing sports and entertainment along the journey. Our goal is to enhance the sports fan experience bringing fans closer than ever before to the sports they love!
What do you think the largest hurdle the team needs to clear in order to be successful?
In the spirit of our super sport relay race, THB faces numerous hurdles as an emerging business, as do others. To clear these hurdles, we have brought together an exceptional, award-winning team whose members have cleared many hurdles over the course of their careers, delivering extraordinary successes that align with our business strategy and objectives. So, as a team, we, too, are emblematic and representative of Baton Athletes. And as we race, where Every Second Counts, our largest hurdle is speed.
The faster we can progress and grow THB then the faster we can enhance the relationship between sports and their fans, creating deeper connections through unique content storytelling and personalized fan experiences. And, our capital raise on Netcapital is designed to support that speed and progress.
What do the timelines look like in terms of launching the first season and where will people be able to find the human baton?
The Human Baton race league takes place in an environment which we call ‘cycles’. The lead-in to the cycles requires careful training and multiple practical race orientation events for the athletes and drivers. The public can engage with these stories and content developed during all of these activities within months of the planned launch of the property.
The journey through training and racing as told through the eyes of the athlete can develop a wide body of content from the very first training event. Since there are multiple race events in each cycle, content is being captured consistently by THB Studios from the time an athlete registers, all the way through the team trainings leading up to the Premier Race Event where all five race disciplines take place as relay legs to the race.
Our vision is that our fans and viewing audiences can watch through multiple channels, whether it is through our app on their phones, online gaming platforms, social media channels, broadcast television, and beyond – when they want, where they want it and how they want it! Fans may also join us in-person depending on their geographical location.
We intend to tell great stories, so we’d like our fans to experience the entire process of the athlete’s journey all the way from training to their competition on a team in the race – these are the immersive and exciting stories behind and inside of the Super Sport Race League being told by THB.
Can you tell us about some of the key investors getting involved in the business and why you think they believe in the long-term vision of the business?
Essentially, it is our team of co-founders that are our key ‘investors’ and many are actively engaged in the business today, as we have bootstrapped THB from the outset to reach certain milestones that we felt were necessary before embarking on an important capital raise. Perhaps this exemplifies their and my own belief in the long-term vision of the business.
Given the size of the raise, the majority of the offering is directed at accredited investors under the SEC’s Regulation D rules and now a portion has been allocated for Main Street investors under the SEC’s Regulation CF rules adopted under the JOBS Act. This allocation extends and broadens the opportunity for individuals to invest in THB that share that same belief in our long-term vision, some of which have been on the journey with us from the outset. And, in parallel with the offering, THB continues its investor road show with accredited investors – a relay race of its own!
Obviously investing in a league is a very different experience than a traditional company. what should investors know about what they are investing in/what is the exit strategy? in a perfect world, where do you see the business in 5 years’ time?
The capital raise on the Netcapital funding portal is for THB Holdco, LLC, which is a sports and media company, and its flagship product, The Human Baton. The funds used in this offering are to be used to further the development and growth of the company and to advance the next phase of The Human Baton.
Over time, potential exits for the company could be through acquisitions by larger companies in the Sports and TMT industries, and here at THB in the immediate term, our objective is to enhance the relationship between sports and their fans, creating deeper connections, and through technology, delivering a personalized viewing experience throughout the sports season. Our flagship product, The Human Baton, exemplifies this objective, and ‘in a perfect world’ as you note, THB seeks to apply it to sports leagues around the world.
The Human Baton is definitely a step change from how we currently think about sports entertainment. At the same time, when you think about what American Ninja Warrior has become, you can start to understand the breaking of the mold of traditional sports that is occurring around us.
This team and this new multi-faceted sports event aims to push viewers to a new heightened experience that we haven’t really experienced to date. The concept of The Human Baton and what this team is building can be challenging to understand at first, because it is so new and pushes the edge of what we think of as normal.
At the same time, when you take the time to listen and hear what these media gurus have to say, you start to see the promise of building something really forward thinking and innovative. Be sure to dig in more by checking out some of the deal analytics and stay tuned for further coverage of the business.
About: Chris lustrino
A Boston College Eagle for life, on a mission to democratize startup investing for all people at KingsCrowd, with a passion for Fintech, investing, social impact, doing well and doing good, and an avid runner, cyclist and writer.