NFL Players Association announces first athlete-driven accelerator

Wednesday December 7th, 2016

Read about the latest sports tech news, innovations, ideas and products that impact players, fans and the sports industry at SportTechie.com.

The NFL Players Association announced Tuesday that it was expanding its current business model, where it protects the licensing, content and sponsorship rights for the league’s 2,000 athletes.

The NFLPA teamed up with other founding partners to launch the OneTeam Collective, the first athlete-driven accelerator program in sports. The partners — which include Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Madrona Venture Group, Intel, the Harvard Innovation Lab, LeadDog Marketing Group and Sports Innovation Lab — will provide necessary funding, strategic guidance, mentorship and overall marketing support for the selected startups.

As Ahmad Nassar, President of NFL Players, Inc. explained to SportTechie, the OneTeam Collective had been roughly a year in the making. When he and his NFLPA colleagues took various athletes to meet with companies during Super Bowl 50 this past January in the Bay Area, it was clear that the organization was “going down the right track,” according to Nassar.

“There was an appetite for this. So, we spent a lot of that time post Super Bowl really hunkering down and really figuring out what this program would sort of look like,” he added.

In exchange for an equity stake in startups and early-stage companies, Nassar and the NFLPA will grant access to NFL athletes and their intellectual property rights, something that is fairly difficult for young organizations who don’t have the necessary cash flow. Still, they’ll have access to the same rights and athletes as blue-chip companies like PepsiCo, Nike, EA Sports and Verizon. Moving forward, the Collective will consider startups and product ideas across a variety of sectors, which fall into three few buckets: wearable technology, media/content and data.

LeadDog Marketing Group, one of the founding partners, will assist the NFLPA and its Athlete Advisory Board around different pitch events and competitions in the coming months, with its first Pitch Day being held around Super Bowl LI in Houston.

“Our main goal in working with the NFLPA around the OneTeam Collective is to offer sports marketing and strategic planning resources to sports and tech entrepreneurs participating in this transformative accelerator,” Dan Mannix, President and CEO of LeadDog Marketing Group, said. “Often, a major challenge for startups is landing the right access to a strategic, go-getter marketing team that can help them raise brand awareness, engage new consumers and scale quickly.

“We’re proud of LeadDog’s 17 years of experience and track record in creating, activating and marketing attention-grabbing and revenue-driving experiences for our partners and we’re looking forward to bring our strategic, make-it-happen mentality to the OneTeam Collective’s innovative companies.”

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