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- NIL Collective fundraising isn't sustainable...yet. Here's one idea that might help.
NIL Collective fundraising isn't sustainable...yet. Here's one idea that might help.
Homefield Apparel, aka, 'The Good Brand', has a potentially good NIL idea
Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.
If you want to win a championship, you’re going to need to recruit at an elite level, from the high school ranks and the transfer portal. And if you want to recruit at an elite level, you’re going to need to have an NIL collective that can provide, uh, competitive benefits and opportunities. Money isn’t the only factor, but just like with everything else in life, it isn’t not a factor.
Among the many problems with the current system is the dirty little secret that most NIL collectives rely heavily on a handful of major donors to fund their operations. It can be much easier and cheaper to ask two people for $100,000 than it is to ask 2000 people for a hundred bucks, but there are only so many people who are capable of writing a check for a hundred grand. Eventually, those people stop writing checks.
Virtually every NIL collective is looking at ways to recruit more small donors and decrease their reliance on the same eight people to fund their operations. But ask anybody involved in professional fundraising, from politics to health care to higher education. Recruiting and retaining a bunch of new donors is hard. And not only that, it’s usually expensive.
That idea that collectives would be able to sign up swaths of new users by offering exclusive, athlete-produced content, or maybe some unique #swag…have mostly not been as successful as operators had hoped.
But one brand is about to try something a little different.
Homefield Apparel, an Indiana-based collegiate apparel company specializing in retro designs, will announce the launch of The Homefield NIL Partnership Program later today.
This partnership will create collective-specific promo codes that will give first-time customers a 10%, codes that will be good for an entire year. Homefield will then give 10% of those sales to the collective. Then, on six specific dates, Homefield will give 20% discounts, and share 20% of the revenue to the collectives.
The five collectives that will participate in the program at launch are the Boilermaker Alliance (Purdue), Hoosiers Connect (Indiana), Florida Victorious (Florida), Classic City Collective (Georgia) and Wildcat NIL (Kansas State).
This isn’t a new idea by any means. But it hasn’t been common in the brand and collective space.
The idea of a brand donating a percentage of sales from a specific date to a specific affinity group is not a new strategy. Anybody who has worked for a PTA or tried to fundraise for a youth sports team probably has raised money that way.
For example, a few times a quarter, the PTA at our local elementary school will partner with our neighborhood Wendy’s. The PTA tells all the parents that Wednesday is WILDCAT NIGHT or whatever, Wendy’s gets free advertising, the school gets a percentage cut of the sales, and I get to tell myself that I’m helping my neighborhood and my children by ordering a Spicy Chicken Sandwich meal. Everybody wins.
But by and large, we haven’t really seen too many NIL collectives embrace some of the strategies that might be more familiar to those of us who have spent time with Boy Scout troops or marching bands or anybody else trying to hustle up $400 for uniforms or bus tickets.
The brand fit here is also interesting. Homefield is already a strong DTC brand specializing in serving die-hard college sports fans. You might think the company would have been a good fit to already make big NIL bets, perhaps by enlisting athletes as direct affiliate salespeople, or by producing athlete-licensed IP. But that hasn’t really been the case so far.
I don’t think this is a silver bullet solution for any group trying to broaden their donor pool. That doesn’t exist. But I am very curious if this sort of strategy can scale.
If NIL collective fundraising via affiliate deals is possible, I’m going to assume Homefield Apparel would be a very good bet to pull it off.
Is that because I biased thanks to my friendship with many of the folks that work at Homefield, or the fact that I’m wearing a Homefield t-shirt as I type this? Sure. That’s possible.
But it’s also a company that a) sells products that many college sports fans would already want, b) works in markets all over the country, and c) is a DTC brand that can handle customer fulfillment better than any collective could. The fit between brand, customer and collective feels perfect on paper.
But how many other companies are like that? Could a collective find enough attractive affiliate partners that are more local to their state or market to raise a meaningful about of money? Are there other brands that have a strong audience fit and are national enough to serve multiple collectives? Will the economics work out enough for everybody?
I don’t know! But it’s worth a shot, especially since this strategy doesn’t cost a lot of money to attempt, and could potentially reward customers for buying something they probably wanted to buy anyway.
Other affiliate partnerships, like with collective-branded beer, are going to be exclusionary to some groups of people. But everybody needs clothes, right?
So if you’re a fan of Purdue, Indiana, Georgia, Florida or Kansas State, maybe wait for a Homefield code before writing your next check to your local collective. If you’re going to send some money to a collective…you might as well get a cool shirt out of the deal.
Author’s Note: While Homefield Apparel is not currently a sponsor of Extra Points, they have sponsored the newsletter in the past.
There are two other ways to catch me and my work this month outside the newsletter
On Thursday, Feb 15, I will be joining a panel of other journalists and activists to discuss the impact of conference realignment on athletes and the college sports industry with The Drake Group. The discussion will be from 2-3:30 EST. Registration is free. Click here if you’d like to check it out. I’ll probably do a newsletter after the 15th.
If you’re in the Madison, WI area, I will be doing a book event with my dear friend and former SB Nation colleague, Jason Kirk. We’ll be at North Street Taproom in Madison at 7 PM on Feb 29. Jason wrote an absolutely hilarious and moving novel about the evangelical youth experience. If you’d like to say hello and listen to a few college football Twitter folks talk about Jesus and Evangelical churches and Mormon stuff and probably other things, come on by!
If you’d like to buy ads on Extra Points OR in ADS4000, good news! We have a few unsold slots left for March. Drop me a line at [email protected]. If you have news tips or FOIAs you want to share, I’m at [email protected]. Otherwise, I’m at [email protected], @MattBrownEP on Twitter, @ExtraPointsMB on Instagram, and @MattBrown on Bluesky