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Learfield, Zips Car Wash announce first-of-its-kind NIL campaign
The GIST: Car wash company Zips and college sports marketing consultancy Learfield are consciously coupling. Zips, with Learfield’s help, launched a multi-pronged name, image and likeness (NIL) campaign with 13 schools yesterday in a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the consultancy and a brand. The NIL game changes again and again.
The exclusivity: Zips will enjoy category exclusivity with six of the 13 schools — Arkansas, Baylor, Georgia, UNC, South Carolina and Tennessee — all of whose athletics multimedia rights are already represented by Learfield.
- Additionally, the company will ink individual NIL deals with athletes from Arkansas, UNC and Tennessee for its “Car Wash Convos” series, where players will be interviewed while going through a Zips car wash. Talking at the car wash, yeah.
The insights: The remaining seven schools — Duke, Wake Forest, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Oklahoma and TCU — will increase Zips’ brand visibility across assets like intellectual property, radio, social and Learfield’s digital product, Fan365.
- Fan365 provides detailed fan data to brands, like an individual’s recent clicks, purchases or website visits. The tech will help the car wash company connect with fans through bottom-of-funnel marketing that should drive them (and their dirty cars) to Zips.
Zooming out: Though schools have started employing their own NIL specialists, Learfield’s innovative collaboration with Zips marks a unique example of a brand working with their own NIL consultants to develop and execute college sports sponsorships. NIL experts are en vogue.
- And the partnership doesn’t end there. Learfield will also help Zips select which NCAA athletes would be best for the company’s roster.
Overtime raises $100 million through Series D funding round
The GIST: Overtime, a sports media brand targeting the “next generation of sports fans,” announced yesterday that it raised $100 million through a Series D funding round, in which the company’s value was reportedly doubled to over $500 million. The brand is now one of the largest Gen Z–focused media companies. A start-up no more.
The company: Launched in 2016 as a social media platform, Overtime made its name by posting videos of top high school athletes. After building its digital community (and booking $80 million from investors), it created two boys’ high school properties — basketball league Overtime Elite (OTE) in 2021 and seven-on-seven football set-up OT7 in March.
- Overtime created OTE and OT7 after hosting an all-day basketball experience in 2019. “We recognized that the next generation of fans and athletes were both being severly underserved,” chief strategy and financial officer Farzeen Ghorashy told The GIST.
- “Leagues provide for vast revenue expansion and acceleration, from long-term sponsorship deals, to licensing opportunities, to media rights,” he added. “Our investment in OTE and OT7 have already paid dividends in this regard.”
The details: The latest round was led by Liberty Media Corporation, which, along with Winslow Capital, joined previous investors Morgan Stanley’s Counterpoint Global, Bezos Expeditions, Blackstone and Sapphire Sport. Overtime’s new funds have been earmarked for growing OTE and OT7 and launching new leagues (and associated content) across basketball, football, soccer and gaming.
- “Developing a new women's league is one of our top priorities,” Ghorashy noted. “Dating back to our very first experience, our most successful and prominent events have had both men and women on the same stage.”
- The audience is there. Ghorashy said Overtime’s TikTok dedicated to women’s basketball, which boasts 1.7 million followers, is the largest women’s sports account on the social media app. #RushTok, don’t walk, to the opportunity.
The trend: Overtime’s $500 million–plus valuation nears the price tag placed on two recently purchased media companies — Axios and The Athletic. The former agreed to sell to Cox Enterprises for $525 million on Monday, while the NY Times acquired the latter for $550 million January. The company you keep.
- Both Overtime’s fundraising round and The Athletic’s acquisition reflect a rush of investment for media companies with niche content. Those properties often land more focused partners and generate stronger exit multiples. A win-win.
Zooming out: The nine-figure investment rewards Overtime’s ability to win over Gen Z, both through digital content and by leaning into the experience economy. The brand’s success is particularly impressive considering the key demo’s apathy towards sports — only 23% of Gen Z are passionate sports fans, compared to 42% of millennials.
🏀Kevin Durant gives Nets owner an ultimatum
The GIST: After requesting a trade in June, Kevin Durant celebrated the anniversary of his contract extension with the Brooklyn Nets on Monday by giving owner Joe Tsai an ultimatum: trade him or fire general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash. The audacity.
The why: Since Durant joined the squad three years ago, no banners have been raised and the Nets “super team” suffered two disappointing playoff exits following Durant’s return from a ruptured Achilles in 2020.
The demands: The ultimatum is just another in a long list of orders from the 12-time All-Star who was instrumental in strong-arming big names like James Harden to come to the Big Apple and who asked former teams Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors to retire his jersey. Yes, seriously.
- As for his requested trade, the two-time NBA champion (and two-time Finals MVP) apparently has a list of teams he wants to play for in the 2022–23 season.
What’s next: With training camp looming, will Durant forfeit a slice of his $44 million salary to follow in the footsteps of teammate Ben Simmons and sit out until he gets what he wants?
🎾Serena Williams to retire after US Open
The GIST: As mentioned, after a 27-year pro career, tennis legend Serena Williams announced her plans to retire after the US Open later this month. The GOAT’s on-court days may be winding down, but her incredible off-court impact is just beginning.
On-court career: Serena’s decades of dominance overwhelm her trophy room and include 23 Grand Slam titles (one shy of tying the all-time record), 73 singles tournament wins and an astounding 319 weeks as the WTA No. 1.
- She’s also nabbed four Olympic medals and is the only player to have completed a career Golden Slam (winning all four Grand Slams plus Olympic gold) in both singles and doubles. And the list goes on and on.
The impact: Words fail to do Serena’s legacy justice. She blazed business trails for women investors and BIPOC founders. She changed tennis fashion. She endured racism and sexism and faced those sad realities with an eye toward change.
- She opened up about the health complications she experienced giving birth to her now four-year-old daughter, Olympia, and later inspired the WTA to change their rankings system for mothers who take a leave of absence from the tour.
- Serena wrote in yesterday’s announcement that she hopes “women athletes feel that they can be themselves on the court” because of her. Mission accomplished.
What’s next: In the immediate future, today’s Canadian Open Round of 32 matchup vs. Belinda Bencic. Then it’s off to the Western & Southern Open next week before her final appearance at the US Open, which begins on August 29th. Clear your cal.
- As for off the court, her next steps will be more focused on family. We’ll let her have the final word: “I have never liked the word retirement…maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution.”
⛳HSBC sponsors AIG Women's Open
The GIST: The AIG Women’s Open has a shiny new champ in South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai and a new sponsor in HSBC. The bank became a partner of the golf major on Thursday, becoming the latest company to land on the women’s putting green.
The details: HSBC’s five-year deal with the Open’s parent, The R&A, sees the multinational bank extending its partnership with the men’s event while sponsoring the women’s tourney for the first time. Talk about a stellar stroke.
- The new agreement is reportedly part of The R&A’s strategy to bundle the women’s and men’s events’ inventory despite separate commercial structures. The move is paying off — the Women’s Open picked up partners NTT and Nikon last month.
Zooming out: The LPGA and its championships continue inking commercial partners, and it’s no surprise why: the tour’s audience is surging — over 72 million Americans engaged with the LPGA last year, up from 52.4 million in 2019. Add that to this year’s record total kitty of $95 million and you have a hole-in-one.