Challenge Your Favorite Athletes to Video Game Battles With OverDog

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Tackling NFL running back Adrian Peterson in real life might sound like a pipe dream, but you just might be able to take down the actual Minneapolis Vikings star in a game of Madden.

That’s the concept behind new gaming platform OverDog, which connects major athletes across the NFL, MLB, NHL, WWE and other leagues with fans through console-based video games. That’s right: Peterson is just sitting on the couch waiting to play you in a round of Call of Duty.

“The name OverDog – which is a play on ‘underdog’ – lets any sports fan tackle Adrian Peterson, dunk on Roy Hibbert or race against a NASCAR driver… and win,” said co-founder and former Chicago Bears player Hunter Hillenmeyer. “That’s not possible in the real world, so we’re leveling the playing field for a new kind of competition.”

The startup launched in April around the concept that athletes can challenge to fans to video games supported by PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

“There are countless services that try to connect fans with their favorite athletes in ways that feel a lot more like work than fun — like waiting in an autograph line — but the beauty of OverDog is that we’re making that same connection possible in a way that’s fun for everyone,” Hilenmeyer said. “Athletes are already playing tons of video games, so we are just providing them with the tools to play those games with fans.”

After downloading the OverDog app for iOS or Android, users program their favorite games, console of choice and set up time periods — such as 6:00 p.m. to midnight – when they might be most up for a challenge. When an athlete is in the mood to play, app users who fit the bill are put into a lottery system and sent a push notification that a specific athlete wants in on a game.


Those who are selected are then placed into a real-time match. Some games such as Call of Duty: Ghosts can take on five players at once.

Following eight years in the NFL and serving on the NFL Players Association for five, Hilenmeyer is relying on his personal network of athlete relationships to get the platform underway. The majority of the 310 involved athletes stem from the NFL (60%) and range from modern greats such as Marshawn Lynch and Calvin Johnson to icons like Randy Moss and Ray Rice.


“By and large, our athletes love first-person shooters like Call of Duty, Halo and Battlefield and sports games such as Madden, FIFA and NBA2K,” Hillenmeyer said. “We have some guys who play PC games, but they are the exception. Right now our most active gamers are MLS guys and MLB guys, mostly because it’s their offseason.”

NFL athletes tend to play OverDog on Mondays and Tuesdays, which are often off days, Hillenmeyer added.

Gaining Traction

From a business model standpoint, OverDog is still small, but its network of athletes has tremendous reach.

“The tie in to their social streams is a very important part of the allure for brands who are trying to get in front of sports fans in a less pitchy way,” Hillenmeyer said. “Most of these guys are super passionate about gaming, so our job is really just to try not to get in the way.”

Athletes typically get paid in swag, which includes free gear from sponsors, free games, early access to games and headphones.

“When we pay athletes real money, its usually because they are doing something more than just playing video games. That means scheduling a game, letting us record it, or creating content we use in some promotional capacity.”

From there, a brand – most likely a video game publisher or one that wants to specifically target sports fans – can use that athlete’s reach in an organic way. Call of Duty: Ghosts — which launched in November — was OverDog’s first official sponsor.

“We partnered with them around the launch of Call of Duty: Ghosts and used our platform and distribution channels to help promote the fact that many of our athletes are huge fans of the Call of Duty franchise,” Hillenmeyer said. “That sort of promotion would have otherwise cost a brand millions of dollars, if they wanted to work with such big name athletes.”

Although the number of gaming challenges varies each day, the platform benefits from the fact that many athletes play several games in a sitting. But for those who can’t get into a live match, fans can challenge other fans too, adding a layer from their rooting interests in the sports world to the gaming experience.

“Who knew Bears fans would love shooting up Packers fans in Call of Duty so much?” Hillenmeyer said.

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