Tapping into people’s vanity is an age old business model that really hit the after burners with the advent of social media. Users share over a billion pieces of content daily on Facebook alone, an increasing number of which are photos of themselves and friends.

A new company, Snapsportz, is tapping into this by feeding action sports athlete’s desire to get professional quality images of themselves riding. But the crux of its business  model is partnering with resorts, brands, and park owners to turn these riders into brand advocates by helping them share watermarked images from events on social media sites, gaining exposure for the brands as well as “likes” and followers.

In 2004, while working as a surf-vacation photographer at Namotu Island Resort in Fiji, Ben Kottke, a former senior photographer at Surfing, was trying to figure out an easier way to sort photos of 100s of different people.

“I realized there must be some tech­­nology that can automatically identify, pair, and sort photos,” explains Kottke of what led to his business’s epiphany.  “I learned about RFID, which can do all these things, from an engineer-friend and then realized we could automate the actual image capture process and incorporate it at places like terrain parks.”

“The idea of using that technology as a social media tool for sponsoring brands was a concept my top advisors, and founders as well, Al Ramadan and Chris Lochhead suggested,” continues Kottke of the birth of his company Snapsportz.  ” Al and Chris are weathered Silicon Valley execs who’ve been around since the beginning of  the commercial web. Their company, Play Bigger, helps tech startups like Snapsportz.”

Now made up of CEO Kottke, CAO Nate Coffing, System Architect Lukas Radosz, and Account Manager Riley Cooney, Snapsportz is rolling out its concept at events and parks and has worked with major brands like Nike. We caught up with Kottke after a mid-February event in Mammoth to learn more

Ben Kottke

Tell us a little about the event this past weekend?

We were tasked by Nike to set up two Snapsportz cameras at two features in Mammoth’s main park.  Our goal was to activate Mammoth’s main park riders as well as the Nike Chosen pro/am contestants riding before Nike’s Chosen night contest to Nike’s Snowboarding Facebook page. Once at the site, they view and share their branded photos. At Nike’s discretion we set up at a rail for intermediate riders and at a sizable jump at the bottom for advanced boarders. We also set up a 60” weatherized flatscreen at the bottom of the run in Nike’s Chosen/info tent which streamed a live slideshow of the images as they were captured.

We distributed tags to Mammoth riders and Nike-Chosen athletes and informed them about the service and where cameras were located.

Check out photos from Mammoth here:

You guys have wrapped up your testing phase and are ready to push it forward. What have been some of the biggest lessons of the beta phase working with Nike, etc?

We’ve actually been testing the market while simultaneously developing and improving our technology, but this last year was our first real beta product in the market.

Biggest general lessons was timing the market while simultaneously developing technology. We started off using the technology to sell photos online. As we saw social media emerging we tweaked our main business model and technology to be a B2B activation, branding, and engagement tool.

The biggest lesson with early adopters like Nike was educating clients about the most effective manner and areas to use our technology. Using our system to shoot top pro athletes at heavily covered media events isn’t really our niche. At Snapsportz we enable brands to engage with large numbers of amature enthusiasts to allow them to be their own hero while simultaneously being loyal brand advocates.

How does the technology work?


Simply put Snapsportz’ technology works like this:

1. A participant wears a free sponsor-branded RFID tag. It could be a sticker that goes on a helmet, bike, or moto,  a laminated card that zip ties to a jacket, or already a part of their snow- lift ticket.
2. Participant “hits” a Snapsportz enabled feature, i.e. jump, rail, finish line, or simply something that looks cool.
3. Snapsportz sensors “sense” the RFID tag and trigger creatively positioned cameras to fire a sequence of photos.
4. Images are branded with sponsor’s logo and any message, as well as embedded with any requested metadata
5. RFID tag numbers and photos are paired together and uploaded to a server for immediate viewing and sharing online via a brand’s Facebook page, website,or their mobile device.
6. Backend performance metrics and data are available for the sponsor in real time (# of photos shared, user data captured, “likes” enabled, further digital engagement metrics, ie- user submitted photo contests.