Big name athletes have always possessed the clout to bring notoriety to a brand. Can you imagine Campbell’s Soup commercials, if you are old enough, without the humorous, yet relatable touch added by former professional football player Donovan McNabb or, if you are young enough, the power of a successful athlete who speaks on behalf of a hometown after school organization that cultivated their talent, as well as their minds?
There is no stronger way to sell an idea or product in sports than to connect the brand to a top athlete that people can relate to, respect, admire, and want to, ahem, be like.
So as an arbiter of innovation through my startup covello, and avid sports tech enthusiast, I am both inspired and excited by the strides toward innovation that the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has recently made through the announcement of their first athlete-driven accelerator OneTeam Collective, which will provide sports tech startups with access to the intellectual property and licensing rights of 2,000+ NFL players in exchange for equity in their companies.
This is a gamechanger.
If a small tech startup with limited funds has the ability to work with a top athlete in the way that an established brand such as Campbell’s Soup, Adidas, or Gatorade does, these young companies will be afforded the opportunity to engage an audience more easily and scale more quickly. Of course, it will require that the idea be great, no different than any top athlete.
Accelerators exist across many sectors, from health and medicine to fintech, and one focused on sports tech will be able to hone in on the needs of these startups in particular and identify their pain points, helping these startups to work through them. This accelerator will provide an extra layer of support for companies that prior to, were left to their own devices for marketing, research and development, funding, and mentorship. Enter the all-star team—it’s where the strength of this program lies. Each partner serves as a key player in the success of the entrepreneurs the OneTeam Collective serves.
The Harvard Innovation Lab will foster entrepreneurship and innovation in these entrepreneurs. The experiential marketing company LeadDog Marketing Group, will be able to offer leadership with sports marketing and strategic planning, which will be integral to the success of these companies. Madrona Venture Group and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) will provide consulting, as well as potential funding. And the Sports Innovation Lab will objectively offer further support to the OneTeam portfolio of companies.
What more, in addition to the guidance provided for sports tech entrepreneurs, participating athletes have the opportunity to engage with business professionals across a wide array of industries—all sports-related—and build their own networks. A number of athletes have succeeded in the realm of entrepreneurship, one well-known name throughout Atlanta being Magic Johnson.
Who knows what foundation this program is also laying for NFL players for starting their own businesses, sports tech related or not, and incorporating tenants of this program into the companies they create.
This program is filled with potential for all involved.
Atlanta is a city with a robust sports tech community with companies such as Fan Beat and Experience. How will some of our local sports tech companies take advantage of the opportunities afforded through this program? How can they use this accelerator to gain more leverage from their resources? The options are endless: a local company that partners with a player for the Atlanta Falcons, or a teammate of the Atlanta Falcons who participates and is inspired to delve into the world of sports technology for himself.
The OneTeam Collective accelerator is a winning game plan for the future of sports tech. Let’s see where this goes.
See oneteamcollective.com for more information.