Brand Affinity Raises $20M, Expands Celeb Roster

Brand Affinity Technologies -- which specializes in teaming up pro athletes with online advertisers -- has raised another $20 million, the company plans to announce Tuesday.

The Series C round of financing was led by Miramar Venture Partners, along with participation from existing investors, including Newport Coast Investments, RimLight Capital, Fulcrum Venture Capital and ad pepper media International.

Founded in 2007, BAT tracks a network of nearly 40,000 pro athletes, more that 3,600 of whom it has partnered with advertisers for less than your typical celebrity endorser.

As a result, BAT is on track to double its revenues to $30 million this year, while expanding its celebrity endorsement roster by 177%, according to Ryan Steelberg, the company's president and CEO.

"This financing will provide the growth capital required to continue to expand and refine our ... service offerings," says Steelberg. "The power of celebrity is universal."

Clients include AT&T, Ford, Comcast, Intuit, Samsung and Web-based ticket seller StubHub, which works with BAT to run display ads for local events.

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According to BAT, campaigns with pro athlete endorsements deliver 13.5 times average conversion rates and 3.5 times average click-through rates.

Separately, a study conducted last year by Insight Express found that celebrity endorsements have remained relevant in an increasingly digital world.

Indeed, when banner ads featuring video and still images of pro athletes were tested against the same ads with no endorsement, the study found a 180% increase in unaided brand awareness. It also found a 56% improvement in message association, where participants correctly absorbed the attributes of tested products and services.

In addition, the study found a 39% improvement in brand favorability and a 27% increase in purchase intent.

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