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FSU soccer team establishes championship co-branding NIL opportunity

Florida State’s Soccer team celebrated the 2021 national championship with a shootout win over Brigham Young in December and have now become the first NCAA national champion to benefit financially under Name, Image and License legislation from a group licensed product. Florida State University and its soccer team also became the first to put together a co-branding opportunity with the university, which adds value for the customer and benefits the student-athlete and the university.

If you were watching the national championship match, you may remember the ecstatic moment when the Seminole women rushed toward Yujie Zhao, who had just laced the winning penalty kick into the back of the net. 

The silhouette image of the Seminoles soccer team celebrating the moment is featured on the first licensed product produced for the women’s team, who will each receive compensation on every apparel item sold bearing the licensed image. What’s more, this is the first time Florida State University has approved its official marks to be used in conjunction with an NIL product, making this T-shirt the first group licensed national championship co-branded piece in the nation.

While NIL legislation is currently regulated on a state-by-state basis, the NIL legislation that went into effect in Florida in July permits the student-athlete to be compensated for their name, image or likeness but may not be represented with the university’s marks or logos without university approval.

This is a state-by-state, school, by school decision. Use of marks within the NIL space comes down to whether state law or university policy permits it.  

While the image of the women celebrating the championship stands on its own, the story is enhanced with the official FSU soccer national championship logo aside the image of the student-athletes. Credit FSU’s administration for finding a win-win with this co-branding agreement as the marks add value, including to the customer. 

As FSU entered the NIL space this summer and began to understand it, they recognized that co-branding was a space they wanted to get into as it creates more opportunity for the student-athletes, an administrator told the Osceola, not to mention revenue for athletics through its license. 

The timing couldn’t have been better. Just as FSU was ready to roll out the co-branding opportunity, the women’s soccer team was making its run through this postseason. 

“BreakingT, one of our apparel licensees who specializes in hot market moments, reached out to us the week before the championship and asked if we would permit NIL co-branding within National Championship product,” said Katie Pugh, FSU’s Director of Trademark Licensing. “We realized that it would be the first time that a national championship piece of merchandise could feature the NIL of student athlete(s) and therefore thought that it was the perfect time to begin to allow co-branding of university marks and student-athlete NIL.”  

Rising Spear assisted with the NIL opportunity

In the short months since the NIL legislation was written, a corporation — Rising Spear — was founded by Alan Flaumenhauft and Bob Davis to aid the student-athletes in developing NIL opportunities. 

Rising Spear heard about the co-branding opportunity and was excited to assist with the opportunity with Breaking T, a licensed company who specializes in commemorating special moments in sports. BreakingT, who lists Bobby Bowden commemorative apparel as its No. 1 seller in 2021, produces and distributes the team’s branded image in conjunction with FSU’s official marks. 

“It’s breaking new ground in NIL space with a licensed co-branded piece of apparel for an NCAA Champion and FSU’s first foray into the use of marks with NIL,” said Davis. “It also gives the women a little bit more shine.

“We presented a licensing agreement to the whole team and 19 signed on,” said Davis, a retired Certified Public Accountant and former chairman of the Seminole Booster Board. 

Not every player on the team was able to sign the agreement as foreign players who receive scholarship money are not allowed to earn income while in the United States under current immigration law.

Here’s how it works

The licensed vendor, BreakingT, produces the T-shirts as well as an e-commerce page where T-shirts and hoodies can be purchased and orders fulfilled. BreakingT pays the student-athletes a royalty on their license agreement with Rising Spear, a percentage of sales, which is paid to the student-athletes who opted in. Similarly, BreakingT pays the university royalties (an additional percentage) for the use of its marks.

The list price on the soccer national championship shirts begins at $28 with hoodies and other items selling for as much as $34.

Rising Spear receives no compensation on the NIL agreements they put together for the student-athletes.

Student-athletes promote their apparel

Each of the student-athletes has an incentive to promote their branded items on their personal social media accounts to drive sales because the more they sell, the more they make.

One of the girls, Emily Madril, shared the photo of the team running onto the pitch after the championship on Instagram with these words: “The moment we won the natty!! I wish this was on a tshirt.” The next frame of her tweet says, “Oh wait it is! Click the link in my bio to get yours and support your favorite National Champions.”

Seminole fans who wish to support “their favorite national champions” can purchase the shirt at BreakingT.com under the collegiate section.

Royalties will be reported to both FSU and Rising Spear in the coming months and at that point everyone will have a better understating of how much the shirt has made in royalties. 

“BreakingT reports quarterly, so I’m anxious to see what the revenues will be when they report to us in January,” Davis said. 

Davis bought eight of the shirts as Christmas gifts, framing the first for himself. 

“I love the way it looks,” Davis said. “That was our first NIL deal. Allen and I are also proud this was the first item ever co-branded.”