Icon Sportswire is a boutique sports photography wire service focused on delivering quality sports photography to multi-media publishers. Icon is a business-to-business company that provides sports photographs to both print and digital media companies. Founded in 1999 by four veterans of Getty Image’s sports division, Icon has grown into one of the leading sports photography businesses, providing daily coverage of sporting events world-wide, from Wimbledon to the Super Bowl, and everything in between.
While working at Getty Images, Icon’s founders saw an opportunity within the fragmented sports photography industry, and thought that they could build a company to challenge the major players in the sports photography industry by providing high-quality photos catered to what publishers actually want to publish. They also disrupted the sports photography industry by getting on the leading edge of the digital photography revolution, shooting the first digital photograph ever published as a double-page spread in Sports Illustrated. This publication validated digital photography as a viable medium for covering sports, and ushered in the digital photography age.
Icon is positioned as a high-quality, but accessible, sports photography company. As a business-to-business company (sports league licensing agreements currently prohibit photography sales to consumers), Icon relies less on traditional advertising and more on personal relationships. When Icon was founded, the owners brought their rolodexes over from Getty Images, and those contacts formed the foundation of Icon’s initial customer acquisition strategy. Icon started with a wish list of 100 customers within the publishing industry, a called each and every one of them to try to switch them to Icon. Icon successfully converted approximately 20 of those contacts, showing that they had a viable product and customer base.
Icon is starting to branch out into social media channels to promote their products and attract new customers, but they still believe the personal touch is the most important. Icon uses digital communications with the goal of getting to a phone call, and phone calls with the goal of getting a face-to-face meeting. They believe that constant engagement with clients and cultivating their personal relationships are the keys to customer retention, and have the loyal customers to prove the concept. Of course, none of those customers would remain loyal if the product wasn’t as good or better than competitors – and Icon remains focused on quality above quantity. Their pivot into digital photography has allowed them to better curate the photos they make available to customers, and allows their editors to review and upload photos in almost real-time, further pushing the idea of what sports photography can be. Icon is well positioned to grow and continue to challenge the big players in the sports photography industry, bringing ever-better and more timely sports coverage to consumers.