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NFLPA sets first with sports business accelerator initiative

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the organisation that represents athletes in the NFL American football league, has launched a new business accelerator for companies seeking to incorporate sports strategies in order to drive growth.

The program, entitled OneTeam Collective, will consider sports-focused product ideas and business ventures related to fan engagement, data analytics, performance and training, mobile fitness, sports nutrition, consumer products, fantasy sports, gaming, wearable technology, new media, and virtual and augmented reality. 

The OneTeam Collective will be the first program of its kind to offer rights to sports-related intellectual property, with companies that sign up having access to more than 2,000 NFL players currently signed with the NFLPA, via licensing, marketing and content rights. Clients will also benefit from research and development, funding and mentorship for product development, as well as marketing support.

The program will have support from the NFLPA, as well as six other founding partners in Harvard Innovation Lab, Intel, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), LeadDog Marketing Group, Madrona Venture Group and the Sports Innovation Lab.

KPCB and Madrona Venture will offer consulting services and potential funding, while Harvard Innovation Lab will provide access to a campus environment, focused on entrepreneurship for student-led events and competitions, such as hackathons. Meanwhile, Intel will offer its own input on ventures and ideas, along with potential funding, with LeadDog to provide sports marketing and strategic planning resources. Sports Innovation Lab will offer additional support to the program and its clients.

In addition, the program will run an Athlete Advisory Board, where individuals will work with founding partners and provide strategic input on companies that sign up and new prospects. Active and former NFL players including Mark Herzlich, Dhani Jones, Kelvin Beachum, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Ryan Nece, and Russell Okung will serve as inaugural members of the board.

The OneTeam Collective will stage a series of events and competitions to help promote the new program, with the first pitch day for a limited number of companies to take place in Houston, Texas, in February. The event will include participation from founding partners, athletes and other key figures from the sports, technology, and investor communities.

NFLPA president Ahmad Nassar, who now will serve as board chairman of the OneTeam Collective, said: “Together we will help companies unlock the value of the world’s greatest unifier – sports and the athletes who play them. With the OneTeam Collective, the goal is to build on that appeal to nurture and grow businesses that will be beneficial to all.”

Jones, a former NFL linebacker and current managing partner of Qey Capital, added: "The OneTeam Collective is going to help develop and promote concepts and products that were previously just left to survive on their own. With this accelerator in place, and with players helping power it, companies can get off the ground and into people's lives."