It’s amazing how much can change in one year.
Entering last season’s NCAA Tournament, Campus Ink’s NIL Store had about 15 athletes signed to its merchandise platform, and just about every one of them was an Illinois men’s basketball player.
So as the tournament began, our wagon was hitched to the success of a single team.
We made the most of that wagon, too! We launched the country’s first-ever NIL pop-up store in downtown Chicago as documented by the Action Network’s Darren Rovell.
But sadly Illinois lost in the second round and our hopes of a deep run were dashed.
Fast forward 365 days and we enter the 2023 tournaments with 19 men’s and women’s basketball teams across 13 different schools.
In total, we have NIL Stores across 15 institutions with more than 1,000 athletes signed to our merchandising platform.
So yea, it’s amazing how much can change in a year.
What Changed Over the Past Year?
In year one, when the NIL Store had almost exclusively Illinois’ men’s basketball team, we were able to make their players more than $100,000 collectively.
That model for success (and a well-framed cold email from CEO Steven Farag) drew the attention of Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star, Mark Cuban.
He loved Farag’s idea of exploding into an untapped space and changing the game by providing collegiate athletes with industry-leading royalty payments that could make a true impact on their livelihoods.
Cuban’s initial investment came on one condition, however, and that was to provide NIL merchandising opportunities for ALL athletes, not just the top 2-percent at each school.
His vision aligned perfectly with Farag and current NIL Store Director, Adam Cook, who was Farag’s soundboard in the initial days, before joining full-time.
The ensuing hires were made up of former athletes, coaches and staff members who had previously spent their careers in higher education fighting for athletes and their overall welfare.
The entire team was passionate about its two principles: putting athletes first and providing opportunities for all athletes.
NIL Store Expands Across the Country!
So with its principles set, Campus Ink and the NIL Store spread its wings across the country obtaining NIL licenses and signing athletes.
With Illinois as its lead, Indiana, Purdue and Virginia Tech were three of the original institutions to jump on board.
We got to work building unique merchandising platforms for the athletes of each school, providing individual locker rooms with products for every athlete.
Along the way we did some really cool stuff, too.
We printed Indiana’s men’s and women’s basketball teams’ legendary posters through an NIL model, and helped to make athletes a collective $15,000.
IU alum Mark Cuban played a playful prank on Michigan fans ahead of Indiana’s football matchup with the Wolverines.
We ran a hockey jersey for Player of the Year frontrunner and 7-4 center Zach Edey, who famously played hockey growing up. The sales skyrocketed.
Indiana women’s basketball coach Teri Moren wore star player Grace Berger’s merch on the sidelines during a game! We think she was the first coach to ever do so.
We had NIL merchandise for sale at the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament for Purdue’s Zach Edey and Penn State’s Jalen Pickett.
And in the middle of that we announced a $2 million investment round, which included a re-investment from Cuban.
Campus Ink’s NIL Store network is set to continue to rapidly expand, with many more stores already in the works for schools across the nation.
And every step of the way, we’ll maintain our founding principle: putting athletes first in everything we do.
That means continuing to put them first in every conversation. Continuing to allow athletes to have an active role in their merchandising decisions. Continuing to pay athletes the highest royalty rates in the country. And continuing to educate athletes on their overall marketability and strategies for success.
Last year we went from one store to 15.
Where will 2023-24 take us?
Buckle up. The sky is the limit.