The phrase “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” has been used to death, but when you talk about a combination of sports business savvy and the food industry well…the shoe fits (to use another wornout phrase). Meet the engine behind a new emerging platform called “The Hungry Fan, ” media personality, sports business enthusiast and entrepreneur Daina Falk. The daughter of super-agent David Falk, Daina has taken a lifetime of knowledge around sports business, combined it with a passion and understanding of both the food and the fan space and has created a platform that is growing to serve all things around the ever-expanding and diverse world of tailgating.
A Duke graduate, Falk, has combines a passion for sports with extensive experience in healthy eating space (as well as a background in the media) to successfully launch an all-encompassing digital platform dedicated to all things around the passion of sport and the love of diverse and creative food options tied to games big and small.
An author and cook as well, we caught up with Daina to talk HF, her business and how and where she has begun to carve both a unique and very diverse niche in the expanding crossover space of both food and fandom.
There are any number of platforms out there devoted to team food, tailgating etc. What is the difference with The Hungry Fan?
The ultimate goal of Hungry Fan is to curate Game Day for sports fans–whether they’re at home, in the parking lot, at a sports bar or in the stadium–all in ONE place. No more surging from one site to the next. Now, everything you need for Game Day is on one place. (And I’d like to think that I’m not just any curator. I’m someone who’s enjoyed a unique perspective and position around sport and fandom since I was quite literally a fetus).
Who is the core audience?
I don’t like to discriminate between sports fans–men or women, north or south, young or old, football or NASCAR (or even Duke or Carolina). I support the everyday fan who is passionate about his or her team, sport or even favorite athlete. And the more enthusiastic (if not fanatical) you are…the more awesome I think you are.
You have worked in media for several years, what did you learn from being on that side of the business to develop this platform?
I have enjoyed the media side and it has helped get me to the point I am now. The problem with it is that sports media is very saturated and unless you have an actual business model that allows you to capitalize on the media/appearances/etc. to generate revenue, it’s very difficult to make a career of it. It’s more of a very fun hobby.
How important is the mobile aspect of the platform?
I think it’s important but again, sports mobile is very saturated. Unfortunately, most of the sports tech is very basic and is only content-driven (with limited content at that). Furthermore, it’s currently only used to engage fans on Game Day and only during any given sports’ season. I believe mobile should be used on a one-to-one basis with each and every fan to best augment their experience–at all times, during the season and offseason. That’s phase two of what I built and is what I’m working on building now.
How has the brand activation platform for The Hungry Fan been developed?
It’s been a lengthy process. It began with a blog focus, to reach fans in a grassroots manner. That ushered in the media phase, which in turn led to mobile/app. Now we are honing the media and tech and expanding to tangible products so as to best curate the four ways (mentioned above) in which/places where fans celebrate Game Day. It’s about providing sports fans the most comprehensive but structured curation platform that assist them in every stage of their Game Day experience.
You have an interesting pedigree in media, given your father’s success. What did you learn, or not learn, from his business that has helped you grow?
Growing up as my father’s daughter, I’ve had the opportunity experience sport with a 360 degree view, understanding not just what it’s like to be a fan, but to also see firsthand the total other side–how the business of sport operates to entertain and cater to fans. It’s given me the chance to better hone Hungry Fan’s offerings–to understand how to serve not only a team (B to B/helping them augment their fans’ experiences) but the fans simultaneously (B to C). For instance, Hungry Fan App has one audience but two uses. The app helps hungry & thirsty sports fans find what to eat or drink so they don’t miss too much of the game. Their usage of the app provides me with invaluable data about their behavior and preferences, who they are, where they’re attending sporting events, etc., This data is valuable to teams as well, who share the same audience.
One of the consumer complaints today is that everything is advertorial. How do you develop a balance between branded content and original creative information?
As a fan myself–and a picky one at that–I only like to promote products I like. I’m not in the business of including just anything in my picks for Game Day. I’ve had the opportunity to get paid for products I don’t like or to open my page up to sponsored posts but I haven’t gone for them because it removes it’s disingenuous. There are currently nor have there ever been ads on my site. I want to be sure if I’m promoting something, it’s something with my seal of approval for Game Day.
Do you worry that the “sports food” idea is a bubble? How much is enough for the consumer?
I see the food industry as being where sports was 20 years ago. It’s only going to get bigger. Furthermore, I think focusing on the regional/local side of it is so interesting and important. I like to provide recipes that are unique to the towns or regions from where they hail. I think this makes Game Day more interesting and enables my users/“fansumers” to feel like they’re the expert on Game Day (when they make sports food that’s culturally relevant to the game they’re watching).
You have an interesting story about the healthy tailgate. How did you find that niche?
It’s how I got started. I lost 60 lbs but was unwilling to give up my favorite Game Day eats. So I started making them myself and making them healthier (I studied Nutrition for 3 years and read voraciously about it today…still). People began asking me for my recipes, noting how amazed they were I was able to keep the weight off despite my love for that kind of food. So I ran with it and here I am today.
Who are some of the experts in media you read and follow and why?
In food, I follow Martha Stewart--She created a version of the model I’m trying to emulate (minus the ankle bracelet and seemingly unpleasant know it all demeanor). In sport/food, I like Darren Rovell. I see him at a number of events each year–we cover the same stuff. I like his Twitter feed–he has everything. And I think it’s fitting ESPN brought him over from CNBC.
What elements of the platform will people be looking for in the next six months to a year?
This month ushers in a far more robust web platform, kicking off the one-stop-shop model I’m trying to create. On it you’ll find original and curated content as well as Hungry Fan branded products and curated ones to help fans best create the most fantastic Game Day possible.