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Volume 21 No. 1
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NFLers get platform for Twitter deals

Companies will soon be able to connect with NFL players and pay them to tweet brand endorsements on Twitter.
That’s the result of a new deal between NFL Players Inc. and digital marketing company Opendorse, who have created a platform called Activate where brands can seek positive buzz and tweets from players. The platform is in the testing phase and has almost 200 NFL players on it, but NFLPI and Opendorse expect to launch it fully in July, when it will be available to all of the NFL’s 1,700 players.

This is believed to be the first initiative where a union representing active players is allowing brands to access its membership for positive messaging on social media through an online marketplace platform.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but NFLPI President Keith Gordon said companies that pay for the tweets will pay a surcharge that will be split between Opendorse and the NFLPI. Gordon declined to reveal the percentage split.

In addition to generating revenue for the union, Gordon believes the deal will help players earn endorsement money and give corporate partners a new way to connect directly with players.

For example, in its testing phase in the last few months, Lions wide receiver Golden Tate tweeted an endorsement for Internet company Knoda, in which the company received exposure and Tate received a fee for the tweet.

“What Opendorse allows us to do is to focus on social media and maximizing social media opportunities for athletes,” Gordon said. “Opendorse is solely a marketplace for micro endorsements that are based in social media. The benefit to companies is they have direct access to NFL players.”

Here’s how the system works: Companies access the site to ask players who feel positive about their brand to tweet endorsements. The brand sends a tweet message to the player and his agency. The player and agent can approve, edit or reject the tweet. Once it is agreed upon by both parties, the athlete tweets it from his account.

Companies may sign on to the system for free. For all tweet deals, Opendorse collects the fees and delivers them to NFLPI, which in turn delivers payment to the NFL player.

The deal was about a year in the making. Gordon said the union liked Opendorse because it could create a platform to allow small, local companies to have access to players. All companies, local and national, will be restricted to using five players or fewer so as not to violate NFLPI group licensing rights.

Blake Lawrence, co-founder and CEO of Opendorse, said he is in talks with other groups that represent athletes, but is focusing on the launch of Activate with the NFLPI. The NFLPI owns the Activate platform, with Opendorse a licensee that powers it with its technology.

“Our goal is to have as many NFL players on the platform as soon as the [NFL] season starts so they can capitalize on the brands doing campaigns during the football season,” he said

Opendorse was founded in 2012 and launched last year. It was named one of Entrepreneur magazine’s 100 “most brilliant companies” of 2013. In addition to the NFLPI, Opendorse is working with athletes in MLB, the NBA, MLS and the NHL, as well as Olympic athletes and golfers.

Lawrence developed an algorithm that determines an athlete’s endorsement tweet value, based on factors including the number of Twitter followers, the quality of those followers, and active followers. That formula determines the value of a tweet from the athlete, which can range from $24 to $15,000 a tweet, which is paid by the brand. Opendorse’s ability to place a value on endorsements is something brands are looking for and was one reason it was chosen, Gordon said.

The plan is to build upon Activate to allow messaging on additional social platforms, which would increase reach and make the value of the proposal more attractive to brands.

“Right now we are just doing Twitter deals, but we are working on integrating Facebook deals and Instagram deals as we build up the product,” Lawrence said. “Brands have requested Twitter the most as a platform. They are starting to ask for Instagram endorsements as well, so we are trying to implement and develop that platform.”

In the last few months during the soft launch, nearly 200 players have signed up to use the platform. When the platform is officially rolled out in July, the NFLPI’s goal is to get 400 to 600 NFL players on Activate.

Some agents said last week that they heard about the partnership but were not sure about the details.

Chad Speck, president of Allegiant Athletic Agency, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based agency that represents about 30 NFL players, has clients using it in the test phase and is a fan of the product.

“We’ve had a number of our players use Opendorse and it’s been very seamless and a very smooth way to monetize social media,” Speck said. “It helps agents facilitate deals on behalf of their players.”

A3 clients include St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale, who is a part of the test phase. In January, Barksdale sent out a tweet for the Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show from his account @BazookaJoe72, “Want to partner with NFL players? Want $1,000 to make it happen? Go here, sign up, and enjoy #SLTS2014 #ad”