The NFL Players Association has launched the first athlete-driven business accelerator and venture fund. The OneTeam Collective will help innovative startups and small businesses to incorporate a sports component to grow their ventures. In the creation of the OneTeam Collective, the NFLPA is joined by six other founding partners–Harvard Innovation Lab, Intel, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), LeadDog Marketing Group, Madrona Venture Group, and the Sports Innovation Lab.
The Collective will offer companies access to the brightest stars in the NFL via licensing, marketing and content rights, research and development, funding, and mentorship for product development. What’s more, it will consider business ventures and product ideas related to fan engagement, data analytics, performance and training, mobile fitness, sports nutrition, consumer products, fantasy sports, gaming, wearable technology, new media, and virtual reality.
Trading Licensing Rights for Equity
OneTeam Collective also is designed to trade the rights to football players’ images for equity in sports oriented startups. The Collective reportedly will be the first accelerator program providing rights to sports related intellectual property, highlighted by the NFLPA’s exclusive group licensing rights and unparalleled access to more than 2,000 current NFL players.
Bloomberg news reports, “When it comes to NFL players, those rights are valuable. Companies, like Electronic Arts and Nike, pay the NFLPA handsomely to use the players in commercials, video games and other promotions.”
“The idea here is that younger companies would be able to tap into that same value without having to put up that same cash,” says Ahmad Nassar, president of NFL Players Inc., according to Bloomberg.
“The union’s licensing and marketing arm earns about $160 million annually, and it could choose to invest some of that money in the new companies as well, or make players available for product research, development or advice,” the Bloomberg article continues.
The Collective’s well-rounded founding portfolio will consist of KPCB and Madrona Venture Group providing consulting services and potential funding; Harvard Innovation Lab providing access to a campus environment focused on entrepreneurship for student-led events and competitions, such as hackathons; and Intel providing valuable input from a global innovative leader, as well as potential funding. LeadDog Marketing Group–an award-winning integrated, experiential marketing agency–will provide sports marketing and strategic planning resources. The Sports Innovation Lab will provide additional support to portfolio companies.
NLF Players-Turned-Startup Investors
The players’ union’s investment vehicle will have an athlete advisory board consisting of both active players, including Mark Herzlich of the New York Giants and Russell Okung of the Denver Broncos, and former NLF players like Dhani Jones. Athletes benefit by having the ability to directly interact with founding partners and portfolio companies, in order to establish a professional network, while also exploring business and career opportunities.
“Players, both past and present, have so much to offer—but never in a way like this,” says Dhani Jones, managing partner of Qey Capital and an investor on CNBC’s Adventure Capitalist, in a press statement. “The OneTeam Collective is going to help develop and promote concepts and products that were previously just left to survive on their own. With this accelerator in place, and with players helping power it, companies can get off the ground and into people’s lives. It’s a great feeling to be involved in something of this magnitude.”
OneCollective investors aren’t putting a limit on how much they’ll stake, and there’s no specific duration, like in the case of other accelerator programs. “It will be more like admission to a club,” adds Scott Jacobson, a managing director at Madrona.
Startups will negotiate deals on a case-by-case basis, including how much equity to trade for what NFL-related benefits, as well as any cash investment from the founding partners.
OneTeam Collective will host its first Pitch Day in February, in Houston, site of the 2017 Super Bowl.