Empowering Fans in Year 3 of NIL

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Fan-driven NIL deals and platforms are expected to to make a larger impact in year 3 of NIL. As donor fatigue is expected to hit mega-donors of less successful teams, there is an opportunity for fans to fill the void left in NIL spending. 

From the Opendorse Year 2 Report: “Fans are eager to support their beloved athletes and teams, and fan-driven NIL offers a sustainable way for them to do so, without relying solely on mega-donors for funding.”

Top-performing college sports programs are actively driving fans to clubs and marketplaces, ensuring that NIL opportunities are accessible to their largest group of supporters. This empowers fans to have easy access, consistent awareness, and a clear path to support their favorite players. They can actively participate in the success of their beloved athletes, creating a deeper connection between the fans and the athletes they admire.

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Companies like The Players Trunk and Opendorse have capitalized on fan-driven NIL deals, offering merchandise and personalized memorabilia to fans. The Players Trunk sells game-worn memorabilia and other merchandise, providing fans with a tangible way to connect with their favorite athletes. Opendorse has launched a shop on its website, allowing fans to search for their favorite teams and players and purchase items ranging from shoutouts to autographs. This model is similar to platforms like Cameo, where fans can buy personalized videos from influencers, celebrities, and now college athletes.

In addition to merchandise, fan experiences play a crucial role in fan-driven NIL. The Vol Club, for instance, provides Tennessee athletes with unique branding opportunities, including media events in New York City. This gives fans the chance to interact with their favorite athletes in exclusive settings, creating memorable experiences and forging deeper connections between fans and players.

Furthermore, fan-powered deals have the potential to create a thriving market for memorabilia and exclusive content. Companies like YOKE and Booster Athletes have built subscription services, allowing fans to access exclusive content and appearances from athletes. YOKE operates on a team-specific basis, where groups of players provide exclusive content and appearances, and the revenue generated is split among them. Booster Athletes focuses more on individual athletes, with nearly 2,000 athletes joining the platform within one month of its launch. These platforms enable fans to directly support athletes by subscribing to their content, providing a consistent source of income for the players.

Fan-driven NIL also opens up new opportunities for fans to interact with athletes through fan clubs and events. The University of Alabama, for example, has launched Yea Alabama as its official NIL entity, connecting fans, donors, and businesses with Crimson Tide student-athletes. This initiative allows fans to engage with athletes by participating in events, and having meals with them, after making a financial contribution.

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Don’t be surprised to see a huge uptick in this as a percentage of total NIL revenue over the next 12 months, especially as fans continue to become more educated about how NIL works and how they can contribute (in)directly to their favorite players and teams.

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