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Favorite NIL Deals of 2021 with Opendorse CEO Blake Lawrence

From team-wide deals to blue-chip brands partnering with game-changing amateur athletes, these first few months of the NIL era have been equal parts lucrative and eye-opening.

Even before the college sports name, image, and likeness era kicked off on July 1, Opendorse had put itself in a favorable position to be a leader in the space.

Opendorse is a sports technology company that allows its users to build and monetize their brands within one convenient platform and maximize endorsement values through various social and advertising campaigns. More than 50,000 athletes and organizations use the platform worldwide, including the NFLPA, NHL, MLBPA, WNBPA, PGA Tour, LPGA, athletes like Patrick Mahomes and Luka Dončić, and top programs like Texas, Ohio State, and Florida. It’s forged significant name, image, and likeness partnerships with Twitter, Division Street and the University of Oregon, and a long list of others.

Given Opendorse’s experience and knowledge base in the growing NIL industry, we decided to speak with CEO Blake Lawrence about his favorite NIL deals of 2021, and what distinguished his picks from the avalanche of deals inked by athletes in a all manner of NCAA sports over the past six months.

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Built x BYU Football

Protein and energy product company Built signed NIL deals with all 123 members of the BYU football team, including compensation for all 36 walk-on athletes comparable to their full tuition for the year.

“It introduced the concept of teaming up with a sponsor to increase the number of ‘scholarships,’ available for a team,” Lawrence told Boardroom.

Photo courtesy of Gatorade
Gatorade x Paige Bueckers

“Gatorade is so particular in their search for its perfect brand ambassador,” Lawrence said.

The UConn basketball superstar became the first college athlete to ever sign an NIL deal with Gatorade in November, something Lawrence thinks will comfort other blue-chip sports brands and possibly enable them to do the same.

Gopuff x 10,000 student athletes

The emerging snack delivery app partnered with Opendorse on July 1 to offer every student-athlete in any sport the chance to ink their first NIL deal — a unique equal-opportunity initiative.

Barstool x 100,000+ student athletes

It was a simple concept at a large scale: Put #BarstoolAthlete in your social media bio and receive free gear.

(Though there is technically an application process, too.)

“It was the first large-scale, swag-for-shoutout NIL deal that no one saw coming,” Lawrence said. “Rumor is that Barstool is still working around the clock to verify the hundreds of thousands of #BarstoolAthlete applicants.”

Degree x “Breaking Limits”

Over the summer, Degree deodorant formed a #BreakingLimits team of 14 athletes from schools in Divisions I and II, representing a variety of men’s and women’s sports and ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Each athlete is receiving equal pay for their participation and had to apply on Instagram by sharing how they’ve overcome personal and societal challenges to get to where they are today.

Boost Mobile x Hanna and Haley Cavinder

On the first day of NIL, Fresno State basketball stars Haley and Hanna Cavinder parlayed their millions of TikTok followers into a huge Boost Mobile deal that even included a Times Square billboard. Since then, the Cavinders have partnered with brands like Eastbay x Champs Sports to further enhance their profiles among the most impactful new-media influencers in sports today.

Division Street x Oregon

“Phil Knight revolutionized pro athlete endorsements while at Nike, and now he’s setting the standard for collegiate athlete endorsements,” Lawrence said of the partnership between Division Street, which helps Oregon athletes navigate the NIL space, and Opendorse.

“Division Street is one of many agencies/collectives designed to bring NIL opportunities to student-athletes at a specific school. The Division Street blueprint is already being replicated at dozens of schools across the country.”

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