The primary focus of NOCAP is helping college athletes in the new name, image, and likeness (NIL) market connect with brands and execute influencer marketing campaigns.
Nicholas shares, “We’ve taken quite a bit of pivots just like any company in a new industry. There’s always going to be things that change. We initially started with a focus on universities and how we could help them in navigating the compliance side of NIL.”
Today, NOCAP Sports specializes in helping athletes and brands connect and build impactful campaigns beyond athletes posing with a product in an Instagram photo.
Navigating The Complex NIL Space With Nicholas Lord, Co-Founder & CEO Of NOCAP Sports
Initial Challenges When Starting a New Business
Nicholas has founded multiple businesses throughout his life, starting in high school. As is the case with every business, there were initial challenges in launching NOCAP Sports.
Nicholas says, “I started this company about a year before NIL was even a thing, so it was banking on the fact that the rule change was going to happen, and luckily it did. Although, now we are still dealing with regulatory issues at the congressional level. You have state laws that are in play. You have schools that have different policies across the board. It makes things much more complicated, and that also scares away some brands initially.”
One of the challenges of being in such a new market is convincing brands that the NIL space is viable and should be a part of their marketing strategy.
The Most Rewarding Aspect of Creating NOCAP Sports
Nicholas shares, “There are two things. Number one is the value that we’re able to bring to these athletes. It is amazing the see the joy on an athlete’s face when you get them a big NIL Deal. When I was in college, I wasn’t making a dime, so it’s super rewarding to see these athletes capitalize on this now, something they have always deserved.”
The second most rewarding aspect for Nicholas has been building a team that has loved working at NOCAP and has believed in what we have been doing since day one.
Helping Student Athletes
One of the biggest ways the NOCAP team helps student-athletes is by getting them quality opportunities where they are paid what they’re worth.
Nicholas explains, “We put the power in the athlete’s hand, letting them know that they don’t have to take every opportunity that’s on the table. They can evaluate each opportunity, and we give them the tools and resources to get access to as many high-quality deals as possible. We also allow athletes to proactively pitch brands or pitch opportunities to these companies that are looking to bring on athletes as ambassadors, which allows athletes to express their creativity and really connect with brands.”
Helping Brands Build Impactful Campaigns with Athletes
What separates NOCAP Sports from similar companies is their heavy focus on brands as the primary client. During the early stages of connecting with the brand, the NOCAP team does a deep dive to help them build campaigns that will effectively help achieve their desired success metrics.
Creating a solid experience for brands, rather than trying to take on as many brands and transactions as possible, is always a primary focus for the team.
Nicholas shares, “We are focusing on fewer transactions that are going to drive real value, at least initially. I think that’s how this NIL space, in general, is going to survive. We have to prove that working with college athletes is a massive opportunity for brands and should be a part of their overall marketing strategy.”
NOCAP Sports offers many essential features for brands, athletes, and external stakeholders to achieve this.
NOCAP handles vetting the athlete, creating communication contracts, payments, tax forms, and much more to simplify hiring an athlete for a campaign. Once on the platform, brands can reach out to specific athletes directly or post opportunities that athletes can apply for.
Athletes are also provided ways to reach out to businesses and pitch why they are a great fit for the brand.
Navigating the Complex NIL Space
The NIL space is still a new industry, so it’s constantly changing and regulations are still being established.
For student-athletes and brands, this can be wildly confusing without solid direction.
Nicholas shares, “If you look at contracts, for example, that’s a super complicated thing that these athletes probably haven’t dealt with before, and most athletes don’t have representation that is going to go over these contracts. We are trying to simplify and automate that process as much as we can. We’ve really tried to lay out campaign details from start to finish in an easy to understand format for athletes so they know exactly what they’re agreeing to and what they’re going to have to do.”
NOCAP helps athletes evaluate their worth so that they can charge appropriately. The platform also features educational content to help athletes understand how to build their brand, approach other brands, and pick the right brands to work with while maintaining their image on social media.
For brands, NOCAP offers analytics about the student’s social media so they have a clear idea of the ROI they can gain by working with that athlete as well as campaign level reporting to measure the success of campaigns.
Handing Compliance Regulations on NIL
Nicholas’ business partner and Co-founder, Casey Floyd, previously worked as the Director of Compliance at the University of Michigan, giving NOCAP additional insight and experience with compliance.
Nicholas shares, “He [Casey Floyd] has helped build out our compliance checkpoints within our platform. We also have partnerships in place to be able to directly disclose to universities.”
Taking proper compliance into account is critical to ensure that athletes aren’t going against their university or state’s policies.
The Future of NIL
Nicholas explains, “I think it’s [NIL] completely disrupting college sports. It’s affecting recruiting and success on the field because athletes are making decisions now based on NIL. I don’t think I necessarily like that [athletes] are making decisions based strictly on NIL. I think there are a lot of more important things to focus on, like making sure you like the coach, team, [etc.] but NIL is now a key factor.”
Since NIL trends and developments are rapidly changing, staying on top of everything takes substantial effort. Nicholas uses Twitter and has email notifications sent to him daily with articles that mention NIL. He also follows prominent sports publications like ESPN and has advisors and investors who send him articles every day.
His number one tip for student-athletes navigating the NIL space?
“Don’t rush into anything. Take your time to figure out what you want to do in this space… There’s a lot of situations where an athlete gets on campus and they want to rush into doing a bunch of NIL deals, but that’s going to end up hurting them long-term. Be authentic.”
As for the future of NOCAP Sports, Nicholas shares that they are coming out with many new features in the next couple of months that will help athletes make money in new ways.
The NOCAP team is also heavily focused on building ROI proof for brands by creating case studies, reports, and more to show them the impact their work with athletes is creating.