It's hard to believe NIL has not even been around for a year.
In fact, it's been just over 10 months. And during the time we've been in the NIL space, there is so much we have learned and so much more that we have yet to learn as it continues to evolve.
At Campus Ink, we structured a model with the intent of finding success financially both in-season and out of season by developing merchandise and overall branding for our athletes that will last. Some merchandise is licensed while some is solely based on their personal brand.
What We've Done at Illinois
We're proud to say that we put a collective $80,000 in the pockets of the 12 Illinois men's basketball players we signed this season. The postseason was nuts and we even built the very first NIL pop-up store in the country!
The first name, image and likeness clothing store has popped up. @campus_ink, who counts @mcuban as an investor, allows Illinois fans to buy gear of @kxng_alpha and other Illini players at new destination in Chicagohttps://t.co/JoD92Afymj— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 17, 2022
Let’s take Andre Curbelo for example. A lot of things didn't go his way this year due to injuries and other matters. Despite those things, we were able to help push a lot of merch for him. We even had an in-person event for him!
Mark Cuban Invests In Campus Ink
Our foundation for the Illini Store led us to Mark Cuban's investment. What Mark loved about our company was our commitment to not just helping the "marquee" athletes, but providing a merchandising solution for ALL athletes.
The beauty of NIL is that fans can now support their favorite players financially in a way they had never been able to in the past. Every piece of merchandise they buy puts money directly into the pocket of the athlete.
NIL & The Transfer Portal
Though athletes may not admit it, NIL deals may be something they take into consideration now, especially when choosing a new home.
Athletes in the transfer portal should be mindful of their new home and what that means for their livelihood.
Does the new school have strict NIL policies? Do they help athletes or give mentorship?
Does the school allow for co-licensed apparel? Can a player sell their NIL with the marks of the university? Some schools do not allow it (YET!).
Does the school make it difficult for vendors to print for the athletes? Some schools are harder than other or have large barriers to entry. Some have preferred vendors but they may not have the tech to do so. At Campus Ink our platform pays athletes in real time, tracks financials, and shares 30-40% of the total sales, not the split or rev share.
Businesses engaging with athletes also need to be mindful of their deals knowing that every athlete is working on a defined timeline as they look beyond their college career into professional life.
How We Release Merchandise
For us, we are thinking about that constantly and don’t want to be sitting on thousands of dollars of unsold merchandise in an extremely volatile and transient space.
Here's what we do to combat this and make sure our athletes are protected in the process:
Print on demand
We bring in blank jerseys and only fulfill them as they are sold. This is how we can support an entire team, but also hedge our risk in case an athlete walks.
Our custom lifestyle merchandise is limited, exclusive and experiential. We do this to corral customers and shorten the buying periods so there is limited inventory risk. If we had to take on inventory while worrying about a player transferring, this would not be sustainable.
NIL Athletes Own Their IP
We take on all the risk of merchandise on the athlete. It should not be their problem whatsoever. We are in constant communication with the players and support them. If they leave to a different institution we are there to help them build their new brand. We can even help them with their announcement!
The running joke in the NIL space is that it’s the Wild West. Adding the transfer portal ads a new dimension, perhaps it’s now the Wild West meets the Matrix!
We don't know what NIL will look like in the coming years, but what we do know is it is here to stay.
And so are we.
- Steven | CEO, Campus Ink