“If it smells, that’s how they’re going to receive it.”
While that claim would likely make most D2C founders cringe, for founder Chris Alston, it’s part of the magic of his company, Mov. The upstart, based in Los Angeles, connects fans to the game-worn apparel of their favorite athletes through a sweepstakes-style model. And in the market of sports memorabilia, authenticity (even if it includes sweat, blood and tears) is everything.
“We send it as is,” he said. “We want to make it a really special experience for the fans.”
Mov, launched just a few weeks ago, is more than a rebranded eBay or NBA auction site. The company, founded by Alston, his brother Brandon and creative director Jacqueline Pounder, uses a sweepstakes-style model to raise money for a game-worn item. With each sale, 70% of money raised goes toward a cause of the athlete’s choice. The remaining 30% goes to Mov employees and operations. Causes currently listed on the website include Milwaukee Freedom Fund, Girls and Boys Club of Portland and With Us Foundation.
“Athletes wear these game-worn items, and our platform gives them a way to donate and make an impact without any extra time on them and their busy schedules,” Alston said. All an athlete has to do is ship their item to a Los Angeles warehouse after the game, and Mov will get it into the winner’s hands.
Like any sweepstakes model, there’s no purchase necessary to enter. Everyone gets one free ticket to win an item, whether it’s CJ McCollum’s Li-Ning Yushuai 13 sneakers or Pat Connaughton’s Equality jersey. However, if a fan wants to buy more tickets to increase their chances, they can do so for $1 to $2 a ticket.
“Typically with game-worn gear, it’s whoever has the most money,” Alston said. “For us, we’re allowing anyone to enter to win for one ticket, and so we’re decreasing the barrier to entry.”
Alston grew up surrounded by philanthropy and sports. His grandparents took their own school board to court, and helped lead desegregation efforts in Virginia Schools. His brother is a professional basketball player and Alston himself played college football at Columbia University. Eventually Alston dropped out of Columbia to pursue tech entrepreneurship.
With that background, it would have made sense that Alston landed on creating a product that combines charitable causes with athletes. However, the first iteration of Mov looked far different than it does today. The product started as a video e-commerce platform, basically creating a video version of eBay. After Mov had difficulty scaling its marketplace, he thought of new ways to define his market. He landed on the network of athletes that he and his brother know well — and the fact that a not-so-tiny NBA rule change had recently passed.
In 2018, NBA players were allowed to start wearing any sneaker color of their choice. While it might be a small deal to some, the ability to wear different kinds of sneakers quickly turned into players repping charities or causes on their gear during games. Alston saw Mov as a way to take gear that athletes either throw out or give away and repurpose it for a good cause.
The success of Mov, from both a charity and revenue perspective, depends on how many fans sign up for its service and eventually pay for a chance to win an item. While the founder would not disclose total users just yet, he finds optimism in how much money an item is able to make through Mov. For example, Pat Connaughton’s Jersey made $2,164 on Mov versus $560 on the NBA auction site.
“During this crazy time, crazy year, we’re really trying to maximize how everyone can give back,” he said.