Issue No. 3 | The Business of Ultimate

When I was a college freshman, I think I could have named every single YouTube video related to the ultimate. There was little news to be found outside of rec.sport.disc., and even less hope that what I read was written objectively. Ultimate media faced the same Catch-22 as a number of other business ideas in our sport: there wasn’t enough of a consumer base to justify spending the resources required to build it, and nobody wanted to risk fronting the initial investment needed to attract new consumers.

These days, there are full-time jobs for program directors at league offices like DiscNW and the Triangle Flying Disc Association and part-time coaching gigs that people use to pay their real bills. ESPN broadcasts USA Ultimate’s championships events, and Puma—the same company that sponsors Usain Bolt and the Italian national soccer team– is behind Major League Ultimate. Organizations from Buenos Aires to Moscow to Taiwan pay for American coaches to fly over and lend their competitive expertise. Personally, I’m one of a growing contingent of journalists who now gets paid to write about the sport. While nobody has ever been wrong for saying it would be difficult to make a living based on ultimate, the hand-in-hand growth of participation and visibility have brought more dollars into our community than ever before.

Issue 3: The Business of Ultimate is all about the economy of our sport. Readers will find USA Ultimate chief executive officer Tom Crawford on what makes ultimate attractive to sponsors, an article from Ultiworld editor-in-chief Charlie Eisenhood on the market’s inherent budget limitations, and VC Ultimate owner Adriana Withers on the innovations and competition that has pushed the apparel sector to develop beyond its humble beginnings. There’s also Ultimate Central’s Jeremy Kauffman and Tim Morrill of Morrill Performance with advice on the struggles and payoffs of running a business, World Flying Disc Federation president and former Ultimate Players Association president Rob Rauch’s account of the history of business in ultimate, and visions for the future from leaders from both the MLU and American Ultimate Disc League.

In reading Dave Barkan’s telling of his experience as director of Ultimate Peace, I was reminded that money is only part of the big picture: what we’re really talking about in this issue is how organizations function in a world of uncharted territory. Financial sustainability only comes once institutions are in place and best practices have been implemented. Operating ultimate-based businesses and non-profits has led our contributors to sacrifice time and family with friends, subject themselves to failure and criticism, and risk good credit standing and chances of early retirement. Is there a more convincing way to voice belief in the value of our sport?

“Business” is a big word, and the thought of making a single argument on the matter is overwhelming. But one thing is clear: more stakeholders have skin in the ultimate game than ever before. It is Elliot’s and my hope that The Business of Ultimate is a meaningful contribution to the ongoing conversation about where ultimate is and where it’s going.

Enjoy,

Jonathan

High Release Co-Founder

 

Issue No. 3 | The Business of Ultimate

January 6, 2014