Today, several alumni and prominent University of Oregon donors, including NIKE co-founder Phil Knight, Pat Kilkenny, Ed Maletis, Jim Morse, and the Papé Family are announcing the formation of Division Street, Inc., a sport venture that will assist Oregon student athletes in monetizing their NIL.
Former VP and GM of NIKE WomenNKE, Rosemary St. Clair, will serve as the CEO of the new entity, with former NIKE VP of Sports Marketing Rudy Chapa will serve as Chairman of the Board.
“Student-athletes have a full plate, and figuring out how to monetize their brands is an incredible challenge,” said St. Clair. “Our team has spent decades building the brands of the world’s best athletes, and we will use that experience to elevate NIL opportunities by bringing in leading expertise across brand, marketing, sponsorship, digital and creative to support all Oregon student-athletes, inclusive of every sport and across gender.”
Former Oregon women’s basketball star Sabrina Ionescu, and the No. 1 pick of the 2020 WNBA Draft, will serve as Chief Athlete Officer. In this role, she will serve as a senior advisor to the Division Street team to ensure the voice of the athlete is at the center of all the company’s work. Additionally, she will share her knowledge as a high-profile athlete with a growing portfolio of top-tier partnerships with Oregon student athletes through quarterly seminars.
“As an athlete navigating the world of brand and partnerships myself, I see a real opportunity to provide today’s college players more professional counsel as they grapple with the new NIL landscape,” Ionescu said. “I’m excited that Division Street also sees that need and is bringing together an all-star team to address this for Oregon. I’m also very passionate about ensuring diversity in gender and sport, and that will be part of my focus in this new role.”
Ionescu fits in with the athlete-centric approach Division Street plans to keep at the center of its mission.
“We have decades of experience building brands for athletes, and the key to that work has always been one thing – putting the athlete at the center. By putting the athlete at the center and getting to know their stories, their values, their interests and their personalities, we can create personalized plans that match them with opportunities that are a perfect fit.”
Asked for her best advice for student athletes, Ionescu encouraged them to think beyond the dollar value of a transaction.
“My biggest piece of advice is to think big picture and not make decisions based solely on money. Money should be a factor in the decision, but so should shared values, working relationships, and the impact you want to make. It’s a lot for a student-athlete to consider on their own, which is exactly why I joined the Division Street team.”
So, what’s her advice for how student athletes should be vetting brands to ensure they’re a good fit?
“Write down your goals, what’s important to you and areas you’re interested in. Once you have those parameters, you can better evaluate if brands align with you and are the right fit for your own personal brand. The team at Division Street has experience building the brands of the world’s best athletes for decades, so bringing that experience to this is going to be incredible.”
Obviously, student athletes also have to figure out how to balance their new NIL activities with school and their sport.
“You have to remember education and competing as an athlete are your first priority so that needs to be your focus,” said Ionescu. “Division Street is going to be an amazing resource in freeing up student-athletes to focus on what’s most important without sacrificing opportunities to take advantage of NIL.”
The Division Street team will also include Adopt, a minority-owned brand and creative company focused on athletes and sport recently co-founded by Klutch Sports Group founder and CEO Rich Paul. Adopt co-founders and former NIKE and Jordan Brand executives Nicole Graham, David Creech and Josh Moore will bring their decades of experience in branding, marketing, creative and digital to the team. Adopt has also hired former Oregon wide receive and Jordan Brand executive Garren Strong to join the squad.
Asked how student athletes can leverage the platform and attention being a student athlete provides to put themselves in the best position to pursue goals after graduation, St. Clair said access to the team Division Street has assembled is key.
“To truly build their brands to help them prepare for what’s next, they need access to professional counsel across brand, marketing, sponsorship, digital and creative to ensure they get real value. That’s why we’re here.”
Division Street is also partnering with the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center and School of Journalism and Communication, as part of the Sport and Wellness Initiative, and their newly formed Oregon Accelerator. The accelerator is a first-of-its-kind, full-service, student-led marketing and branding collective that will focus on maximizing the name, image and likeness earning potential for the University of Oregon’s 500+ student-athletes.
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