Opendorse has entered into an exclusive, multi-year partnership with brand consultant Jeremy Darlow, who will offer his expertise and a suite of athlete development resources as an add-on to Opendorse Ready, the software platform’s name, image and likeness preparation program.
The deal is the result of some self-reflection on Opendorse’s part—and growing demand for Darlow’s services as the NIL era approaches. In the 10 months since Opendorse launched the Ready program last March, it has examined its three core pillars: education, social media assessments and performance.
With Darlow, Opendorse Ready will put even more emphasis on brand-building within the education pillar to help better prepare athletes for NIL opportunities and beyond—adding an element of “ongoing education” to Ready’s offerings, as Opendorse CEO Blake Lawrence describes it.
Darlow sees it as lifelong education.
“Athletes are influencers regardless of the sport they play or how successful they are at that sport,” Darlow said. “The problem is that these young men and women are not being taught how to leverage that influence and turn it into a career post-graduation. It’s our mission to teach every athlete how to build a personal brand-marketing plan that sets them up for success in life after sports.”
Both parties declined to disclose financial details of the deal, but Darlow told Sportico that Opendorse aligned best with the way he wanted to expand his work in college athletics.
Darlow has authored a trio of branding books, including The Darlow Rules: 75 Rules to Becoming an Elite Marketer—which has an online class component now offered exclusively through Opendorse’s platform. Darlow, a former Adidas football and baseball marketing executive, has worked with more than 40 schools already through his athlete development course, which launched in April 2020, including Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, the University of North Carolina, Cincinnati and the University of Richmond.
Any of those programs that wish to continue working with Darlow will have to do so through Opendorse Ready, which currently has 16 of its clients signed up for the NIL offering. Darlow’s 40-plus school roster could rapidly grow the Ready Program’s users, which is why Opendorse is eager to help Darlow scale his business, hoping to grow its own program in the process.
Opendorse has already gained at least one Ready Program client from the partnership, an SEC athletic department finalizing its Ready with Darlow deal.
“People in college athletics know Jeremy’s name. They know his content; they understand that he’s helping to prepare student athletes for what’s coming with NIL,” Lawrence said. “Jeremy has made all that noise by himself. There’s an opportunity here for him to have the resources of our nearly 50 employees at Opendorse that can help support the infrastructure needed for him to continue to scale on what he’s providing the market.”
More than 100 athletic departments already utilize Opendorse’s basic social media athlete-marketing platform, and 16 are signed up for Opendorse Ready. Clemson, Nebraska (whose 12-month deal with the tech company is valued at $235,000), Indiana and Louisville headline the company’s early Ready users.
Though the NCAA has postponed its vote on proposed NIL rules, preparations continue. Lawrence said Opendorse had increasingly been speaking with existing and potential clients about the Ready Program prior to the partnership with Darlow.
All of Opendorse’s current college clients that utilize the Ready Program will have access to a basic level of Darlow’s expertise, but those who purchase the additional package will receive a more expansive brand-building curriculum and live coaching sessions featuring individualized feedback, among other resources.
The Darlow deal is the second major add-on partner for Opendorse Ready, following the announcement of an agreement with media company Overtime in October. As a Ready partner, Overtime will provide Opendorse’s college athletics program clients with custom content to help build personal brand value for athletes. With content and education specialists now on board, Lawrence said Opendorse is better positioned to help partners capitalize on the inevitable NIL marketplace.