Russell Wilson may be taking on the Green Bay Packers this weekend to kick off another NFL season. But, the Seattle Seahawks’ Pro Bowl quarterback apparently also has his sights set on a different group of competitors, including the likes of Instagram and Twitter.
Wilson is a founder and executive chairman of a new social media startup called TraceMe that launches its beta version on Friday. TraceMe is a mobile app aimed at what the company calls “super-fans,” who follow their favorite celebrities’ every move on various social media platforms. In the app’s beta version, Wilson will be the only celebrity featured. The NFL quarterback, who already has more than 4.2 million followers on Twitter alone, is promising to use TraceMe to offer his biggest fans original and exclusive photos, videos, and other daily content to give them a more in-depth look at his life in and out of the spotlight.
Wilson, who came up with the idea for TraceMe before working with the Seattle-based tech startup studio Pioneer Square Labs, said in a statement that he looks forward to the app “providing me with a direct line to my most passionate supporters” during the upcoming NFL season.
The app already has the backing of a group of venture investors, who were led by Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group on a $9 million Series A funding round that TraceMe also announced on Friday. That round also included angel investors such as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ personal investment vehicle, Bezos Expeditions, along with YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley, Alibaba Group co-founder Joseph Tsai, Dick Clark Productions president Mike Mahan, and the founder of private plane startup Wheels Up, Kenny Dichter.
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Meanwhile, leading the way for TraceMe is CEO Jason LeeKeenan, a tech industry veteran who was most recently the VP of product at the e-commerce company Zulily and a former director at Hulu. “What we’re building is a new platform that connects super-fans to what they love,” LeeKeenan tells Fortune. That mission starts with Wilson for the beta version of TraceMe, but LeeKeenan says he is actively talking to other high-profile figures from the worlds of sports and entertainment to lure more celebrities (and their fans) onto the network.
So why can’t Wilson’s biggest fans simply continue following him on the social media platforms where he’s already built a major presence? They still can, of course, because Wilson will likely continue to post on those services. LeeKeenan explains that those existing social media sites are geared more toward “casual fans” who may not be interested in a scrolling through a feed of photos and video dedicated to only one, or more, famous individuals.
“This is not just about taking content that’s on traditional social and putting it on a new platform. We’re actually creating original and exclusive content [with celebrities like Wilson],” LeeKeenan says. And, for high-profile people like Wilson, the app aims to offer celebrities more control over the type of content they post while serving as a more personalized platform for boosting their own personal brands. (LeeKeenan even likens the app to old-school fan clubs of the sort typically associated with popular pop bands and teeny-bopper stars.)
For the non-celebrity users of TraceMe, the appeal seems to be the access to a deeper well of specific content curated by celebrities like Wilson. Those fans will still have opportunities to ask questions and engage with the famous people they’re following, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be any more interaction with those figures than on any other social media platform.
In the case of Wilson and the beta version of TraceMe, LeeKeenan says the exclusive content ranges anywhere from behind-the-scenes photos and video posts to more polished videos that TraceMe staffers work with the star to develop, such as discussions between Wilson and his “mental conditioning coach” on how the quarterback mentally prepares for a big game. There will also be posts featuring Wilson working with his personal trainer and personal chef to show his followers how he gets in shape for the NFL season. TraceMe is also promising a series of “broadcast-quality interviews” where Wilson sits down with legends from the world of sports (Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and others).
That’s the type of content that can be found on the public beta version of TraceMe, which is now available for download around the world on iPhones through Apple’s App Store. LeeKeenan said he plans to eventually make the app available across all mobile platforms.