Written by: Jamie Yellen
We live in an age where activity is king; young, urban professionals are constantly on the move and hunting for activities to keep them fit and social. In New York City there are dozens of social sports leagues to choose from, so what distinguishes one from another?
“New York’s Social Sports Leagues. Let’s get together. Let’s give back. Let the games begin! That’s Zog Since ’02.”
ZogSports (Zog) is a social sports league for young professionals. It is a company focused on being active and interactive by emphasizing fun, sportsmanship and citizenship with its well-balanced and organized activities. After experiencing the impact of the 9/11 tragedy, founder Robert Herzog formed Zog as a way to rebuild camaraderie and optimism. Participants are encouraged to live in the moment, forget about work— and any other responsibilities— and just have fun. Zog also emphasizes the social aspect of the league by hosting post-game happy hours. They organize “out-of-town adventures, ski trips, classes, parties and events too.” Zog engages its participants to create memorable experiences and build lasting relationships.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Zog is their “Play For Your Cause” initiative. Ten percent of league profits are donated to the charity of the winning team’s choice. Similarly 100% of all bar contributions are donated to charity as well. Over $2 million dollars has been donated since Zog was founded in 2002. Zog also instills charitable donation as a part of every corporate partnership and offers additional volunteer opportunities for interested parties. So, by playing sports with your friends, you’re also giving to charity- talk about experiential philanthropy.
Zog: The Birth of an Idea
On September 11, 2001, Robert Herzog narrowly escaped a tragic death. All of Herzog’s 297 co-workers who were already in the office died, and he was left with “tremendous survivor’s guilt”. In the time immediately following 9/11, Herzog observed a kinder and more giving New York City; he wondered what could be done to maintain this spirit. After considering this further and recalling pleasant memories playing in sports leagues and taking a first-year entrepreneurship class at Wharton Business School, he had an epiphany. ZogSports’ first league was flag football; it debuted in 2002 and 500 people showed up to play on opening day. In its first season Zog had 29 teams and one sport, now they offer approximately twelve sports in five cities across the country—NYC, NJ, DC, Atlanta and Stamford— and has recently launched in LA and San Francisco.
How does one Zog?
Zog offers a variety of sports year round with several seasonal options and registration periods. Leagues include Basketball, Bowling, Cornhole, Dodgeball, Football, Hockey, Kickball, Soccer, Softball, Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball, and Wiffle Ball. Each league has a regular season followed by playoffs; typically 50% or more qualify for playoffs. Regular seasons usually span between six to eight games and playoffs are played in a single day (teams that qualify for the championship game play a doubleheader). Games are played weekly and happy hours follow each game to emphasis the engagement factor with which Zog so excels.
Zog incorporates participants’ feedback and requests specific to the leagues they offer. Soccer and Football are Zog’s standards and are in consistent high demand while Ultimate Frisbee and Cornhole are gaining popularity based on the demand of its participants.
Ali Chanin Gorbaty, a ZogSports employee, spoke to the success of Cornhole and the involvement of the customers in initiating the league. “Cornhole is something that we just thought we would try out for a season and it ended up basically selling out every time we do it. Its really funny because it surprises you sometimes; there are things you think would be the most popular and other things kind of just sneak up. Its interesting to see what everyone’s interested in… it was one of those things where it was like ‘oh, we didn’t realize that was going to happened’ and then you think about it a little more and it actually does make a lot of sense.”
Yeah, but how else can I Zog?
Zog also offers a variety of non-league activities such wine tastings, hikes and ski trips, as well as provides opportunity for charitable volunteering for interested parties.
Zog relies primarily on word-of-mouth and friends to increase participation and various social media platforms. Participants are known to involve their companies, alumni associations or other groups of friends in Zog. Zog also markets at other events that target young professionals such as concerts, food/beer festivals and sporting events.
Ali says that “happy hour is a large part of ZogSports’ leagues.” Partnerships with KIND Healthy Snacks and Wild Turkey American Honey allow for large-scale sponsorship. These sponsorships have enabled the organization to offer more promotions and contests to Zog participants. American Honey recently sponsored a celebrity kickball tournament in Times Square with Ryan Lochte and Donovan McNabb. These partnership have allowed Zog to give more back to the participants and create even more engaging experiences.
ZogSports is the reigning king in the social sports league world. They offer more than just fitness and activities; they offer a community and an opportunity to give back and increase stewardship. They offer experience, which is particularly appealing to gen X-ers and millennials.