Kevin Sullivan has taken niche market – health insurance for rugby players in California – and turned it into a thriving practice. Find out how he got started, and learn his advice for creating a niche market of your own.

Q: Tell us about yourself. How did you get started in insurance?

Kevin Sullivan: Five years ago, I was in a bar after a rugby match. I had just finished creating a website for a dental plan company. My buddy Stewie joked that I should sell health insurance to rugby players; I asked my teammates, who was dumb enough to do that? Eight out of 10 were exactly that stupid. So, I looked up how to become a broker, took the class, passed the test, and that was that.

Q: Your agency focuses exclusively on rugby players. How did you get involved with such a unique niche?

KS: I’ve been playing rugby since 1984. I watched Ireland lose to England on Super 8 film my Dad had sent over. He cried every time. It’s a natural community for me. When I first started the business, I thought I would have maybe 15 to 25 clients from my team and local clubs, just to help out and make some beer money. In 18 months, I had more than 500 clients in California. Rugby is an insular cult that shuns outsiders. I eat, drink, and breathe rugby. Ergo, I have an instant warm market.

ASJ: What considerations do rugby players have that differ from members of the general population?

KS: I see health insurance in three chunks: catastrophic, mid-level injuries, and odds and ends. Everybody should have some form of catastrophic coverage – however, rugby players only go to the ER, and usually stay away from doctors in general. So, my favorite way to tackle that is an HSA-qualified plan with an accident indemnity program underneath. Rugby players use chiropractors and massage, so the HSA plan is a natural fit.

ASJ: What advice do you have for other agents looking to reach out to a niche market?

KS: The hardest part is saying “no” to those outside your niche. Referrals to parents and friends are cool since there is still a rugby connection. But I don’t work with football or soccer players because I have no passion for those sports. I’ve been offered generic leads, but that usually leads to lighting money on fire. However, I am looking for those who want to learn how to do what I do. It’s easily duplicated.
Passion is the key. With my niche clients, I spend 80 percent of our time complaining about how the [New Zealand rugby team] All Blacks get it easy with the refs, and 20 percent on the difference between deductibles and co-insurance.

ASJ: How do you think the health reform law will affect your business?

KS: I’m not a fan of Obamacare. November will be interesting, but as it stands, I don’t think it will affect my business. The market will go two-tiered, and rugby players don’t like to wait in lines, so they’ll find private insurance plans that get them back on the pitch.

ASJ: Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years? What about the health insurance industry as a whole?

KS: RuckingInsurance.com is growing into other areas of insurance, and I’ll eventually add financial services. I also want to franchise into other sports, teaching someone who loves baseball how to market in that niche.
As to the health insurance industry: We’re not going anywhere for at least 10 years, if not longer. The beast is too big to kill. My fear is that health insurance will go the way of lizards on TV advertising low rates, but the consumers in my niche won’t go for that. They want to hit people, not wait in a line.