Ross Fruin, GridRival: ‘Underserved’ niche sports fans want ‘native’ experiences

CEO Ross Fruin is ready to deliver an ‘underserved’ motorsport fanbase audience, who he believes is ready to engage with betting, provided they have the appropriate platform
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GridRival is set for an exciting and busy period in its short history. Fresh off the back of a 23-state launch of its Daily Fantasy series with a real money twist, CEO Ross Fruin is ready to deliver for an ‘underserved’ motorsport fanbase audience, who he believes is ready to engage with betting, provided they have the appropriate platform. 

Niche sports fans, not just motorsport enthusiasts, are clamoring for their own specific platform, in Fruin’s view, and this led to the creation of GridRival back in 2019. 

GridRival aiming to provide for ‘underserved’ motorsport fans

Founded by a desire to create a motorsports platform, the company aims to cultivate a social element, bringing a portal for motorsports fans to come together whilst also enjoying the games. 

Fruin explained the premise of the firm’s DFS launch: “A lot of race fans are not traditional sports fans so I think one of the key things about it is that it’s maybe not the most complex technological advancement ever, but when you get on the platform, the only thing you see is racing.”

It is that central focus on a niche sport that offers GridRival a fantastic opportunity for growth, especially when motorsports have been thrust into the limelight by Netflix‘s hit reality television series, Drive To Survive, focusing on Formula One. Since its initial release in 2018, F1 has seen enormous growth in the US, with a Grand Prix now set to occur in Las Vegas in 2023. 

Whilst, of course, GridRival is in a prime position to capitalize, Fruin was not afraid to admit his luck that the series has brought such large attention to F1.

“It is incredibly unique timing,” he noted. “Frankly, I’m not a genius. I didn’t predict that this was going to happen. I knew that motorsports fans were really underserved and I knew it was a really big audience. But I couldn’t have predicted Drive To Survive and that during this process of building this that motorsports would be going through a digital revolution. I’m obviously very happy that it is, but some of that’s a little bit of luck.”

Luck has played its part, but as many entrepreneurs will tell you, businesses need a certain element of luck to thrive. But all businesses need a purpose, and a great product. 

Fruin explained exactly where GridRival fits into the equation in an exciting time for motorsports in the US and how the launch of its Daily Fantasy Sports game in 23 states puts it in a position to capitalize on this audience. 

“I think, where we fit into this puzzle, our stated vision as a business is to provide the world’s motorsports fans deeper engagement and community with the sports they love. We all know that with money on the line, you’re more engaged.

“But I think we’ve worked really hard to make the platform social to make it a point of connection for fans and for friends as well. So I’d say, almost fundamentally, look at it as a fan engagement tool.”

Capitalizing on a new audience

With GridRival putting so much time and effort into creating a motorsport-specific platform, it begs the question of why motorsports fans have been so underserved by traditional operators, especially considering the development of the leagues over the last few years.

“I just don’t think you’ve seen the innovation around all of the niche audience opportunities,” Fruin explained. “Surfing, equestrian sports, there are tonnes of these, where handle historically is not huge. We think the handle is not huge in our case. I can’t speak to other niche sports, but I think handles are not huge because motorsports haven’t had a product that has given them a compelling reason to act. 

“That comes to this whole chicken and egg thing, which is like, operators aren’t going after motorsports fans because today, overall handle on motorsports is low. It’s low because they haven’t had a really compelling product, which takes time, right? 

“We’re talking about developing a new audience. It’s not gonna be like we turn on GridRival and all of a sudden, every motorsports fan that’s never bet on racing before are going to do it, it’s gonna take time.”

As well as a cultural fit, there is also a technological point to be made as to why motorsport fans are underserved by other operators. 

“A lot of sports betting applications are an amalgamation of a bunch of different software jammed together that they don’t know and they don’t control. So the way that products have been built historically is an operator goes to a data provider and they plug in the sports they want.

“I think the next wave of betting needs to have a lot more entertainment value. And I think there needs to be a lot more product focus.”

Rigorous research was conducted into the development of the new GridRival DFS platform ahead of its launch, and one survey cited that 78% of all respondents who already participate in sports betting would prefer to use a motorsports-specific platform, as opposed to the offerings from major operators.

Was Fruin surprised at all by this finding? Of course not.

“I think it just speaks to the reality that, especially with niche sports, people want experiences that are native. Any of these (other) products, you open and you see the bars with all the sports and it’s NFL (NBA, etc). Maybe at the very end, there’s this category called ‘Motorsports’ and anything that involves wheels is stuffed into that category.

“I think it speaks to the readiness of the audience. Now, as I said, I think it’s going to take time to get the product right. Daily Fantasy is a new concept to a lot of motorsports fans.”

As already laid out, the community aspect is a huge part of what GridRival is trying to cultivate with this launch. As such, the firm has engaged in numerous sponsorship agreements to try and add to its community. 

One example is GridRival’s sponsorship of esports leagues, where motorsports fans are often found, given that motorsports video games are much closer to the real thing than other esports.

As Fruin succinctly rounded off: “You can be the best esports quarterback, but you’re not going to go play as a quarterback in the game. But that can actually happen in motorsports.”