After the first few months of NIL, a number of athlete marketing companies have begun to adjust their offerings as the market develops. Software company INFLCR, for example, is introducing a product it says will double its revenue coming from schools that sign on. The new INFLCR+ Local Exchange will create a school-specific NIL marketplace, where approved businesses can identify, connect with and compensate athletes for endorsement deals.
The university-friendly software stops short of fully facilitating those deals, leaving negotiations in the hands of the brands and athletes, but the technology will help at the beginning and end. While neither INFLCR nor the school will have access to actual conversations between athletes and potential partners, final payments can be processed through the platform, and arrangements will be reported to athletic departments for compliance purposes.
Schools that currently utilize INFLCR’s existing NIL software, Verified—there are around 150 of them in Division I—have the option to add their own local exchange. Nine, including Oklahoma, Florida, Boise State and Texas A&M, have signed on at launch.
“The whole process was a little clunky out of the gate and people are learning we probably have more freedom with NIL than we anticipated,” Kenny Mossman, executive associate athletic director at Oklahoma, said in a phone interview. “So what every school is trying to do right now is make NIL as easy as possible for athletes. That was our focal point with this. We want to be seen as forward-thinking, and this is an investment in the young people who choose to come here … who now have access to our own, 24/7, 365 platform where athletes and businesses can come together, really with no middleman.”
Participation is optional for athletes. The INFLCR profiles, which include athlete information and social media followings of those who do opt-in will be available for brands to search. The software will track all completed deals and produce necessary tax documentation for users at year’s end.
The local exchange deepens INFLCR’s involvement in NIL, which is currently limited to brand building, education and compliance reporting, but it keeps the software company’s revenue tied to institutions as opposed to athletes. INFLCR will not take any transaction fee for deals done on one of its local marketplaces. Instead, athletic departments will pay an additional annual fee to have an INFLCR+ local exchange built and maintained. Deals will be coterminous with a school’s existing contract, which typically spans anywhere from three to five years.
For context, the average Power 5 school that works with INFLCR spends somewhere in the mid-five figures (total cost for its content software and NIL compliance product), and expanding to this new service will bring that cost to more than $100,000.
“We don’t know how big the transactional revenue market is, because we’re still seeing a great deal of transactions today happen outside of those platforms,” INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale said in an interview. “For us, working with the school to have them invest in an additional B2B SaaS software fee over five years—on top of [what] they’re already paying for our other products—made more sense because we can predict and plan our business off of that.”
Eliminating transaction fees will also help encourage athletes to use their INFLCR+ marketplace to do NIL deals.
INFLCR+ also furthers the company’s progression into the compliance software world, appealing to schools looking to keep up with the rapidly evolving marketplace while complying with their individual state laws (or school policies, where state legislation does not yet exist). It also provides schools and their MMR partners with a list of potential new sponsors, identifying which registered brands on the local marketplace are not current university partners or IP holders and creating a database of contact information for those businesses.
Perhaps most importantly, the hope is that a customized marketplace for doing local endorsement deals also appeals to future prospects as NIL becomes increasingly important in recruiting, Cavale said.
The core of INFLCR’s business is still its content-sharing software. The company’s Verified program helps with NIL education and transaction disclosure and monitoring for compliance purposes. Since NIL went into effect on July 1, INFLCR said more than 6,500 NIL transactions worth over $10 million have been reported through Verified. A broader NIL exchange also exists within Verified, connecting athlete users with a number of external, third-party NIL marketplaces and opportunities.
Cavale said he is optimistic that more of INFLCR’s most committed partners will invest in INFLCR+ in the coming weeks and months, but he still doesn’t foresee his company brokering any actual deals. (“We’re not agents, we’re a technology company,” Cavale said.) INFLCR, like many big NIL players, initially saw no place at all for its products in any deal-making. But as the marketplace has continued to evolve, it is not alone in making the pivot. Multimedia rights giant Learfield, for example, similarly dipped its toe in deeper NIL waters with its own IP-centered initiative.