Former Carlson Marketing CEO Launches Sports Gaming Startup

by Geoff Dutton


PickPointz Jim Ryan is intimately familiar with how loyalty programs and promotions work, as he’s been in the business for much of his professional career. More recently, Ryan served as CEO of Minneapolis- based Carlson Marketing for nearly a decade.

Now called Carlson Marketing Worldwide, Inc., his former company is a well known leader in relationship marketing and and consumer engagement programs for Fortune 1000 clients. In the fall of 2009, the firm was sold to Groupe Aeroplan for $175m. Since his departure in 2004, the executive turned entrepreneur has been building a marketing agency that recently spun out a product-based business dubbed PickPointz.

Ryan’s new endeavor “is a technology enabled loyalty game geared towards sports fans,” he says.

Publicly launched earlier this year at the start of the Twins season, the basic objective is to guess the outcome of a given sporting event as early as possible. Players can make changes to their guess throughout the game, and if that prediction is accurate, points are earned. Logically, the earlier a final score is picked, the more points earned; as these points are accrued, they can be redeemed for team apparel, merchandise, or gift cards to popular retailers like Sports Authority, Macy’s and Cabela’s.

“Simplicity is the key. There are many fantasy-type games out there, but they get complex quickly,” said Ryan. “Of the roughly 1,000 users we’ve signed up, each averages about 6-7 picks per game, making it a proven engagement tool for a mass audience. People love to play it.”

The game can be accessed and played anywhere using a mobile iPhone/Android app, directly through the PickPointz website, via Facebook, and as of this week – through KFAN.

Conceptually, the idea germinated about two years ago when Ryan himself was at a Twins game.  Looking around, he noticed how everyone was on consistently checking their phones., which got him thinking ‘why not give them something exciting to do that relates to why they’re here?’

PickPointz will be available for the Minnesota Vikings starting this weekend with the first pre-season game and — for better or worse — the Green Bay Packers.  Players will be able to predict the half-time score, the final score and even ‘stats specific’ type questions such as, ‘Will Adrian Peterson rush for over 100 yards?’

“Our vision is to build an international sports fan database for loyalty programs. We want to have every sport across the country over the next few years and ultimately take this global!” exclaims Ryan.

PickPointz aims to generate revenue primarily through targeted advertising and coupon offers which can be saved in the users account. Notably, the venture is also a general division semi-finalist in this years Minnesota Cup business plan competition.

“Formalizing and articulating the business plan has been a great discipline for us internally,” says Ryan.  “We’ve met a lot of great people so far and it’s definitely helped us get improve our own game.”