The Kentucky men’s basketball program is among the teams that use INFLCR, an app that allows players … [+]
For the past four school years, college athletes have become accustomed to INFLCR, a mobile app that allows them to post photos of themselves playing in games on their social media feeds. By doing so, they can increase their visibility to a vast audience on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook beyond just their own campuses. Soon, if name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation is passed, those same athletes could use the app to make money off their popularity, as well.
INFLCR, which has deals with more than 100 colleges, has recently formed partnerships with companies that focus on creating revenue opportunities for athletes. Those companies include the Players Trunk, a website that allows players to sell their team-issued gear and memorabilia as well as autographs and other items; Cameo, a website and app where people can pay money to have athletes record short videos; and Mojo, an app where athletes can record paid educational videos for parents and younger children.
As of now, only professional athletes can use those services because NCAA rules prohibit college athletes from getting paid. But several states have passed laws that could eventually lead to college athletes being able to earn money from their NIL, and the NCAA could pass its own rules on the subject in the coming months.
If those rules are enacted, as expected, athletes could open their INFLCR app and have direct access to the Players Trunk, Cameo and Mojo, making it easy for them to earn money. The companies are paying INFLCR to be integrated in the app and market directly to the tens of thousands of athletes who use INFLCR. Meanwhile, INFLCR is creating a system where athletes and college athletic departments can monitor athletes’ monetary transactions and report them to the NCAA and Internal Revenue Service to ensure they comply with rules.
The INFLCR app also has educational modules where college athletes can learn about building a business, earning money, paying taxes and other financial-related topics.
“The category we play in is athlete brand building,” said Jim Cavale, INFLCR’s chief executive and founder. “Because we have that athlete engagement, now it’s logical to take that next step and provide those features to help athletes manage their name, image and likeness business inside of their INFLCR app and give compliance departments all the oversight they need to make sure athletes are monetizing their NIL opportunities in a safe manner.”
When Cavale started the company four years ago, the idea of NIL legislation getting passed seemed far-fetched to most observers. But Cavale had developed a relationship with Greg Sankey, the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. Sankey worked out at a fitness center that Cavale owned in Birmingham, Ala.
Through those conversations, Cavale thought that eventually college athletes would be able to benefit financially from their popularity and have a chance to make money through endorsements, paid appearances, autographs and other means. Still, the company’s primary mission was to make it easy for athletes to access photos and use them to raise awareness of themselves and their colleges.
Cavale signed his first deal in the summer of 2017 with the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program. John Calipari, the Wildcats’ coach, had been an early adopter of Twitter and other social media platforms and saw INFLCR as a recruiting and marketing tool.
“As an entrepreneur, I always say an idea is nothing if somebody won’t write a check for it,” Cavale said. “(Kentucky) writing a check and saying we see value in this is what gave me the belief I had something I could scale.”
He added: “(Calipari) has credibility with his brand and on social media with young people. For him to be the face and first partner of INFLCR was a perfect part of our story early on.”
After Kentucky signed, Cavale soon inked deals with Auburn and the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Today, the company’s clients include numerous major programs, including Duke, UCLA, Syracuse and North Carolina.
Colleges pay INFLCR an annual fee to access the company’s software and app. Most of the deals are for five years and range from $15,000 to more than $100,000 per year depending on how many teams and athletes are covered. Some athletic departments have deals specifically for football, men’s basketball or women’s basketball players, while others have contracts that allow all of its athletes to access the INFLCR app. INFLCR has contracts with Imagn, a photo service owned by USA Today, and Getty Images, allowing them to provide athletes access to images that photographers take of them during games.
Two years ago, INFLCR was acquired by Teamworks, a software company founded in 2005 by Zach Maurides, a Duke football player. More than 3,000 college and professional sports teams use the Teamworks app to schedule their practice plans, meetings, travel itineraries and other logistics. Teamworks raised $25 million in a Series C funding round last April, bringing its total funding to more than $45 million
Cavale had known Maurides for several years and was encouraged that Maurides would allow Cavale to continue to run INFLCR as he saw fit and remain as chief executive. The two men agreed that creating partnerships with the Players Trunk, Cameo, Mojo and other companies would be a smart next step for the company to improve the app, generate revenue and help college athletes earn income when the NIL legislation passes.
Austin Pomerantz, a senior at the University of Michigan who co-founded the Players Trunk last year with his brother, Hunter Pomerantz, and friend Jason Lansing, said it didn’t take long to complete a deal with INFLCR after the sides began talking earlier this year. The Players Trunk allows former college athletes to sell their jerseys, sneakers, shorts and other gear online.
So far, more than 450 athletes from more than 100 colleges have used the Players Trunk. But that number should increase exponentially if the NIL legislation passes, and the agreement with INFLCR will extend the Players Trunk’s reach, as well.
“It’s another way to get our name out to thousands and thousands of college athletes and help grow our company while also providing a great service to INFLCR and their athletes,” Pomerantz said. “Both of us really want to help athletes take control of their brands and provide them ways to monetize themselves. It’s such a great partnership because our missions are so aligned.”
I have covered professional, college and high school sports for nearly two decades. I was a staff writer in the Sacramento Bee’s sports department for four years before
I have covered professional, college and high school sports for nearly two decades. I was a staff writer in the Sacramento Bee’s sports department for four years before earning my MBA degree from Georgetown University in 2009. Since then, I have worked for medical and financial media companies and written freelance sports articles for the New York Times, USA Today, Vice Sports, Bleacher Report and numerous other publications and websites. I grew up in Rhode Island, graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and now live in the Philadelphia suburbs with my wife, two daughters and son.