Gerome Sapp had been someone’s football-playing, three-dimensional billboard for much of his athletic career.
Back in 1999, Sapp was the No. 1 player on the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55 list of the state’s top football recruits, and signed with Notre Dame. The Baltimore Ravens selected him in the sixth round of the 2003 draft, and Sapp enjoyed a five-year NFL career, also playing for Indianapolis.
In his career, he’s worn adidas, Reebok and Nike, depending on which team used his services as a defensive back.
Every six months while he was in the pros, the Houston Lamar graduate would receive up to $5,000 in free athletic wear as payment for representing a particular brand. Companies, in striking deals with numerous athletes, hoped their fans would buy the shirts and shoes. It was a relatively cheap way to sell a product.
Now a businessman readying for a move to Austin, Sapp, 32, is introducing that athletic endorsement concept to social media. It’s a self-funded venture called Fluencr.com, which had a soft launch last weekend during SXSW Interactive.
“I really always had the understanding that we’re all influential,” said Sapp, who received a finance degree from Notre Dame and spent a semester at Harvard when he was in the NFL. It took him about 18 months to develop his website.
So imagine that a normal person, young, old or middle-aged, the uncoordinated or athletic, the fashionista or slob, could receive “micro-endorsement deals” just by telling their friends what they like.
Here’s how it works:
Fluencr has two audiences — the companies with their advertising agencies, and public relation departments and customers who might buy their products.
The site currently is signing up people via Facebook or Twitter. A person will receive an influence grade based on the algorithm designed by Sapp’s technical team. It’s not necessarily based on the number of friends or followers one has, but how much of an influence the person has within their social circles.
Plans are that the corporate or charitable campaigns will be added within three weeks once the site is fully launched. That’s when the rewards start. Those that share the most products and have their friends buy them will receive free stuff, much like Sapp did when he was a pro athlete.
Benjamin Floyd, Fluencr’s social media director, said the site at a minimum will start conversations with friends about a product, maybe a movie or a TV show. He envisions how all the users will be “empowered” to voice their opinions and be rewarded in the process.
“We’re connecting and engaging,” Floyd said.