Marketing and licensing agency The Brandr Group has tapped Altius Sports Partners as its official education provider for college athletes on an NIL hot topic: group licensing.
Altius, an NIL education and advisory consultancy, will facilitate in-person sessions for athletes at schools where The Brandr Group has established group licensing relationships. The athletic departments at Texas, Alabama, Michigan State, Ohio State, Florida, Villanova, Indiana and North Carolina (where The Brandr Group launched the first-ever group licensing program for current college athletes in July) are among the early adopters in the agency’s portfolio.
While Altius is not directly involved in any aspect of NIL deal-making, the partnership will give the consultancy access to a number of new athletic departments and conversely connect The Brandr Group to Altius’ own 13-school clientele, which includes LSU, Georgia, USC, Oregon State and Washington.
Both companies see group licensing as a way for athletes to maximize their NIL, opening the door for gender equity in deals for athletes from all sports. Education about group opportunities is especially important, given the lack of a players’ association or union in college sports.
“Group licensing education is like a very specific chapter in the book on what athletes need to understand around NIL, but where it differs is every single athlete can benefit from group licensing,” Altius CEO Casey Schwab said in an interview. “The Brandr Group has such a head start in that market from our schools, plus the schools that they’ve signed, but the athletes must be educated on what they’re doing with those rights.”
The Brandr Group, which has worked with organizations including the NFLPA, NBPA, MLBPA and soccer’s U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association, develops licensing opportunities on behalf of college athletes by launching group programs in collaboration with the athletic departments themselves. In getting the green light at the department level, the agency is able to pair an athlete’s newly granted NIL rights with school IP, including official branding, trademarks and logos, which cannot be used in individual NIL deals. Current athletes can voluntarily join The Brandr Group’s program to begin profiting from group deals.
The agency sees “significant” opportunity in products that utilize both player names and numbers as well as team logos (hence, the athletic department participation), a combination responsible for many group licensing opportunities at the professional level, including licensed sports merchandise.
“More than 50% of all products sold in the professional sports marketplace are ‘player plus team,’ and I imagine one day that will be exactly the same in college,” Wesley Haynes, CEO of The Brandr Group, said in an interview. “There’s a big, big opportunity here for the players.”
Their new collegiate program aims to open those same doors for college athletes, but key to success with group deals is maximizing participation—and the hope is that the new education component will boost those numbers.
“The education piece, we’ve found, is critical to making group rights work,” Haynes said. “What we know is that if student athletes or their advisers really understand group rights and how it can be complementary to all of the personal services and selling opportunities in the NIL space, we usually get a really high opt-in percentage [to the group licensing program]. When they don’t understand it, it falls apart.”
Altius also has a similar partnership with OneTeam Partners, which launched in late 2019 as a joint venture between the NFLPA, MLBPA and RedBird Capital Partners. OneTeam works to maximize the collective value of pro athletes’ name, image and likeness across marketing, media, investing and group licensing—which has emerged as one of its first entry points into college athletics in the NIL era. OneTeam utilized sports technology and social media software company Opendorse as its way to access college athletes. Altius was similarly tapped by OneTeam, which is also an investor in The Brandr Group and a partner company to Haynes’ agency, to create educational resources around group licensing rights.
OneTeam’s expertise, Haynes said, is in key categories, including video games and trading cards, while The Brandr Group looks to negotiate licensing deals for college athletes in other areas, including apparel.