Last Updated on October 4, 2023
Business of College Sports had the opportunity to get an exclusive interview with Dominique Wright, the CEO of FAND, a platform that has revolutionized Name, Image, Likeness operations. During the conversation, Wright delved into the inspiration behind FAND’s creation and its role as the go-to platform for streamlining communication between brands and college athletes. A former Division I athlete at the United States Naval Academy with experience in the NFL and NFLPA, Wright shared valuable insights into creating her software company.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
BCS: Dominique, thank you for speaking with me today to discuss FAND. Firstly, what is FAND? Also, what inspired you to start this company?
Dominique: Thank you for having me, Darian! FAND is a NIL operations software that enables marketing departments and agencies to effortlessly manage and execute campaigns with college athletes. FAND automates communication, streamlines notifications, provides 24/7 athlete support, and simplifies all things NIL-related in athlete brand collaborations.
I’m deeply passionate about college sports because I’ve walked in those shoes before as a former Division I athlete. As someone who has represented college athletes, I intimately understand the life-changing opportunities that can emerge in college sports.
Having experienced firsthand the time constraints that college athletes face, I recognize that applying manual, high-touch methods to this unique environment would be challenging. My experience at the NFL and the NFLPA exposed me to the industry’s high-touch and complex processes. So, I set off to create a platform that allows brands to maximize its impact while providing college athletes with a streamlined, efficient way to seize these valuable opportunities. FAND isn’t just about changing the game in college sports marketing, it’s also about making those opportunities accessible to all college athletes.
BCS: You recently had an athlete acquisition event. What inspired that idea, and what were some of the outcomes or impacts of that particular event?
Dominique: We did! We ran an athlete acquisition campaign. The campaign athletes who prefer brands or agencies to contact them via text could join FAND’s database by texting their Instagram handles to 917-746-0067. This idea came from empowering the athlete to give their preference. This allows brands to see what and how athletes prefer to communicate.
We have athletes engaging in this, and saying this seems like something that makes more sense on my schedule. Athletes such as Duke softball player Jala Wright have expressed that FAND understands their lifestyle.
It’s great to see the range of athletes. We have notable athletes like Keon Coleman from the Florida State University football team, Keontra Smith from the University of Miami football team and athletes from smaller markets like HBCUs and Ivy leagues.
So, we’re getting a mix of engagement and excitement, and what’s also remarkable is the growth in the number of athletes stating that this is where we want to communicate.
BCS: FAND received $250,000 in funding from Hivers & Strivers. Talk to me about how that particular investment is helping further FAND’s mission and development and how you see this impacting the growth and innovation of the platform moving forward.
Dominique: We love Hivers & Strivers and are very grateful for them believing in us. This investment is a pivotal moment for FAND. We’re going to put these funds into three main categories. First, we’ll boost our technology and improve the user experience to stay at the forefront of the industry. Secondly, we’ll expand our team to enhance customer support and meet the growing demand. Lastly, we’ll use this capital to expand our reach with strategic partnerships. This investment will significantly accelerate FAND’s growth and impact in the college sports marketing landscape. We’re very excited.
BCS: Regarding FAND’s role in managing the communication component, how does it impact the dynamics between college athletes, their brands, and the endorsement landscape?
Dominique: We are dedicated to creating frictionless athlete-brand collaborations. By eliminating high-touch manual processes, brands and athletes can seize more opportunities, injecting energy and excitement into the endorsement landscape.
BCS: I want to talk about the innovative features of FAND’s platform for enhancing communication and collaboration between brands and athletes within the sports and sports marketing space. What are those features, and how are they shaping the NIL landscape?
That is a great question. FAND is bringing a wave of innovation to athlete-brand collaborations.
Our key features include:
Automated Campaign Manager (ACM): The ACM drives our platform, streamlining all communications and interactions between brands and athletes. It ensures campaigns are efficiently optimized, offering 24/7 support and allowing both parties to act swiftly on opportunities.
Direct Chat: Our real-time Direct Chat is a hub for communication between athletes and brands. Athletes can receive and send text messages, enabling quick and convenient interactions.
Brief Builder: Brands can quickly create clear, concise briefs, reducing misunderstandings and saving valuable time.
These features are reshaping the NIL landscape by simplifying collaboration and enhancing efficiency. Athletes and brands can easily navigate this landscape, making the most of NIL opportunities.
BCS: What are some of the challenges or opportunities that FAND is essential to overseeing or shedding more light on regarding the landscape of NIL campaigns? And when you think about this solution, how does it streamline the campaign and management in response to those things?
Dominique: So, in this evolving landscape, FAND addresses the unique challenges and opportunities brought by this transformative shift into college sports marketing, specifically as it pertains to brands being able to do deals with college athletes.
Doing deals with athletes isn’t new; the difference is now brands are working with college athletes. Traditionally, brands work with professional athletes with dedicated agents to handle the intricate details of campaign management, such as scheduling, contracting, and aligning with the athlete’s reference. However, most collegiate athletes lack that type of support, and between their academics and playing their sport it’s a full-time job.
FAND bridges that gap, providing brands with a solution that leverages how athletes prefer to communicate via text messages on their phones. FAND streamlines the NIL campaign management with our automated campaign manager, the ACM. The ACM enables brands to effortlessly and efficiently engage with these athletes, share information, finalize agreements, and even execute contracts at scale.
This saves athletes valuable time and empowers brands to navigate the complexities of college sports marketing. It also allows brands to navigate the complexities of collegiate sports marketing seamlessly. In essence, FAND will enable brands to connect with collegiate athletes while simplifying the entire campaign management process. In this dynamic landscape, the key to success lies in effective communication, and FAND delivers just that.
BCS: Modern sports marketing relies heavily on technology. Could you delve into FAND’s model and how it utilizes technology to enhance these collaborations’ efficiency and impact?
Dominique: In essence, FAND leverages technology to simplify, optimize, and amplify athlete-brand collaborations in collegiate sports marketing. Technology is a game-changer in today’s sports marketing landscape, using technology for maximum efficiency. Our tech seamlessly integrates with text messages, catering to brand desktop preferences and athlete phone convenience. We’ve removed traditional barriers, allowing brands to manage campaigns efficiently from their desktops and athletes to engage via text. This tech-driven synergy boosts collaboration efficiency and impact.
FAND just isn’t about changing the game in college sports marketing. It’s also about making those opportunities and resources accessible to all college athletes. We empower athletes with our ACM and our discord community. The ACM is the athletes’ ally in navigating the evolving landscape of NIL opportunities. So, any athlete working with a brand using FAND can explore all the ACM offers.
The ACM is also equipped with branding and educational knowledge for athletes. Athletes can ask the ACM anything NIL-related and receive knowledgeable responses. So if you’re an athlete working with a brand using FAND, you have access to this 24-hour automated campaign manager that will show up for you and answer any responses. [It will provide you with] anything that you need so that you can make a confident decision when working with these brands. And then, as I mentioned, the Discord community, which is not in our software, is located on Discord. We’ve created a community as another resource for athletes to gain knowledge and resources to navigate NIL opportunities confidently, and we welcome all athletes to join this community.
Athletes who know they don’t want to get involved in NIL may have questions, haven’t started working with a brand yet, or are already working with one. They can come to this community, ask questions, interact with other athletes, and receive the resources to make decisions in this NIL landscape confidently. We use both of these resources to teach and guide these young athletes so they can become influential figures and effective endorsers. Ideally, for us, we’re with these athletes. Instead, it’s through the Discord community or FAND through their career lifecycle. So that’s going into being professionals as well. But the collegiate realm is where we’re starting.
BCS: What is your vision for the changing landscape of sports marketing, particularly in the context of NIL, and how does it relate to FAND?
Dominique: Our vision is to empower athletes and brands like never before. We see a future where athlete-brand collaborations are seamless, efficient, and mutually beneficial.
FAND plays a pivotal role in realizing this vision. We envision a sports marketing landscape where athletes and brands can easily discover opportunities, negotiate contracts, communicate transparently, receive payments promptly, gain valuable insights, and ensure compliance, all within one platform.
We aim to revolutionize how athlete-brand partnerships are formed and managed, removing friction and streamlining the entire process. We’re committed to making the NIL landscape more accessible, transparent, and efficient, ultimately creating a win-win situation for athletes and brands.
BCS: How does FAND anticipate driving innovation and transformation at the intersection of athletes, brands, and technology in the future?
Dominique: It is about listening to our customers and athletes for future innovation strategy. We want to understand their needs and make collaboration between athletes and brands as frictionless as possible.
BCS: Dominique, I appreciate you making time for me to speak today and speak to the Business of College Sports, specifically about FAND and what it offers. How can our readers stay up to date on all things FAND?