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Harlem Globetrotters turn to Toronto 'Mompreneur' for success

The Harlem Globetrotters entertain fans at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wi., Friday, Dec, 31,2010. (Jeffrey Phelps for the Harlem Globetrotters)

When the Harlem Globetrotters came to Sharon Vinderine, founder and CEO of Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA), they were prepping for a tour. The Globetrotters wanted to gain PTPA’s seal of approval for their travelling shows, increasing demand and visibility and, most importantly, communicate that they are a family-friendly brand.

The Globetrotters’, which have been delivering fun-for-all-ages entertainment for over 90 years, was interested in the feedback from parents, something that the PTPA community could offer. The organization wanted to see if consumers were getting the best value at the show (and of course enjoying it) while also growing ticket sales. On behalf of PTPA, 40 bloggers were sent out to shows across North America to rate and experience the event. This provided the Globetrotters with another layer of detailed feedback, something they could use to improve future shows.

“Many of the independent parent testers are also bloggers and they attended games in multiple cities as a way to test out product and experience the Globetrotters’ live show,” says Mike Kenney, Harlem Globetrotters’ EVP of Live Event Marketing. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we gave those bloggers a special PTPA promo code that their readers could use to save $7 off each ticket to see the Globetrotters in their hometown.”

In 2014, after the Harlem Globetrotters had received the seal of approval, PTPA helped host a Twitter party at Twitter Canada. The event generated the hashtag #ptpaGlobies, which ended up trending in both Canada (No. 1) and the U.S (No. 8).

“The players, PTPA influencers and parent testers engaged with the fans while using the hashtag and the results exceeded expectations,” Kenney says. ” We also did a contest for schools in Canada to win a Harlem Globetrotters’ assembly.  The winning school received a visit from one of the team’s stars, who presented the Globetrotters’ ‘ABCs of Bullying Prevention’ program…we do something with PTPA every tour.”

“If you believe in your product, you should absolutely reach out to PTPA,” he says.

Vinderine knew her decade-old company was making headway if a big organization like the Harlem Globetrotters was reaching out.

Why it works

At its outset, Vinderine wanted to build a program that allowed moms, at a glance, to buy products based on peer endorsements. 10 years later Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) continues to do just this. The Toronto-based entrepreneur says people are more likely to trust and value the recommendations from other people who have experienced a particular product as well as from those in the same stage of life because “you know you can trust it and you know it’s reliable,” Vinderine says.

Sharon Vinderine, founder of PTPA

Interested testers sign up online and complete a detailed survey which includes questions surrounding one’s demographic, income level, age of children, allergies, pets, etc. Based on the information provided, PTPA then selects the “right product for the right person.”  Testers do not receive any payment nor do they pay for anything. When reviewing, testers fill out an evaluation for each product tested, and in most cases, will also blog about the experience.

“We cover all the shipping costs, we want to ensure the reviews of the products are unbiased,” says Vinderine. “We want them to review a product for us and be as honest and detailed as possible.”

A company that’s interested in having a product, experience or service tested pays an initial testing fee to PTPA. Whether the product gets the ‘seal of approval’ or not they still get all the feedback, and if the product “doesn’t win” as Vinderine puts it, a refund worth 70 per cent of their fees is returned.

For Kenney, hearing this type of feedback really helps because “those testimonials are used in our marketing messages when promoting our tour.” The seal of approval has proven to be beneficial for the brand’s recognition.

“It’s important to know we are receiving great reviews for the next generation,” he explains. “PTPA’s seal is certainly something we’re proud of.”

Domestic expansion a challenge

Brands like Phillips have been working with PTPA for over five years; V-Tech (which now owns Leapfrog) has used PTPA’s platform for 10 years; and private-label grocery company ALDI has been working with PTPA for five years.

Vinderine says approximately 45 per cent of PTPA’s client base returns on a regular basis for product feedback. In the past year, 85 per cent of business came from the U.S.

“We’re a Canadian company and we’ve been more successful in launching the program in the U.S., they’re more open to trying new things and see the direct benefits of the program,” says Vinderine. “Canadian teams are more hesitant it seems, because it’s something new and they’re not used to it and not necessarily willing to invest.”

The next phase

“I want our seal on a package to convey credibility and peer endorsement,” Vinderine says, and with a new relaunch of the site plus the addition of a video review component (that won’t involve paid influencers), she expects to reach even more consumers.

“Consumers are not necessarily going into stores so the products need a way to stand out,” and Vinderine says the PTPA seal helps with that while providing a sort of guarantee to those that haven’t physically touched or used the product before.

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