By David Russell
The big ‘life after football’ question is one that every AFL player faces when it comes time to hang up the boots. The lucky ones get media gigs, others coach, and some lend their names to car yards and their faces to advertisers.
Former Crow James Begley decided to chart a new course. After six years as a player with St Kilda and the Adelaide Football Club, and five years delivering leadership training to the Fremantle Dockers, Begley founded Tract Group, working with corporates to run workshops and drive high performance within their teams.
That work lead to a light bulb moment that would see Begley launch a new business and move back to Adelaide from Perth.
“I was working… with both businesses and athletes, and saw an eagerness for greater connection from both sides,” Begley told Inside South Australia.
“Informally, I was able to arrange connections between my corporate clients (and athletes) which gave me some validation for the idea.”
That idea was a web platform that offers to directly connect clients to elite sports stars for appearances, speaking opportunities and promotions. James enlisted fellow South Australian and Fremantle Dockers captain Matthew Pavlich and PickStar was born.
PickStar works by allowing people to register their event and budget, then sends that offer to athletes who can express their interest in being involved. The client hosting the event then receives the list of athletes who are willing to engage, and chooses the star they want.
According to Pavlich, who grew up in Adelaide and played for Woodville West Torrens before being drafted by Fremantle, both clients and athletes have embraced PickStar.
“Many people are unaware that athletes are looking for more opportunities to engage with the community and business,” he said.
“Facilitating these connections used to be challenging for all involved, but PickStar now makes the process quick and easy.”
Since launching in 2013 PickStar has made over 400 connections between clients and athletes valued at more than half-a-million dollars. Sporting identities engaged through PickStar have included Hawkes coach Alistair Clarkson, Brownlow medalist Matthew Priddis, West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara and netball champion Caitlin Bassett.
“Most people believe that sports stars are difficult to access, too expensive or simply unwilling to engage. But the reality is that most athletes are eager for more commercial and community opportunities,” Begley said.
While clients have included the likes of Red Bull, Deloitte, Uber, NAB, the Cancer Council and Westpac, PickStar isn’t just for corporate events and marketing campaigns. The company has organised Carlton players to attend the wedding of a couple who are massive Blues fans, and as a birthday present arranged a coffee catch up for a Dockers supporter with Fremantle star Stephen Hill.
Begley believes that the pair’s business model and the market demand that exists mean PickStar has potential to expand globally. First launched in Perth, Begley and PickStar have relocated to Adelaide, where the business in now based.
“My wife was due with our first baby, we’re both from Adelaide, and we were always keen to return home. South Australia is a great fit for lifestyle and business, so coming back was an easy decision.
“I’m really positive about business in Adelaide, and the opportunities ahead, and don’t see any limitations for running a successful national, if not international, company from South Australia.”