Arizona State football players become first to monetize highlights through NIL

Andy Wittry09/05/22
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Mick Assaf did not foresee the Derby NIL Club being drawn into the crosshairs of Louisville‘s loss this weekend.

But the timing could not have been worse for the YOKE co-founder and CEO. After the Cardinals 31-7 beatdown at Syracuse, reports emerged on how the Derby City NIL Club’s new monthly goal had dropped to $2,500. Of that, $455 has been raised. The goal was actually adjusted on Sept. 1.

Two weeks ago when the player-driven NIL club launched, the monthly goal had been set at $50,000. YOKE is the third-party provider behind the Derby City NIL Club and around 40 other similar-type organizations around the country.

Other YOKE-powered NIL collectives have seen separate drops in recent weeks. While Michigan‘s Ann Arbor NIL Club has raised more than $30,000, more clubs have seen their monthly goals and funds raised take a dip.

That’s not a surprise for YOKE or Assaf.

“The NIL Clubs all use a machine learning algorithm based on multiple factors — website visitors, rolling seven-day conversion rate, aggregate followers of participating athletes — to determine the monthly goal each month,” the co-founder told On3 on Monday in a text. “They all start at $50,000 and then adjust as soon as there’s enough data.”

On3 found YOKE has 36 clubs across the FBS running on the donation model. The current average monthly goal is $19,236. Collectives at Arizona State, Boston College, BYU, Colorado, Iowa State, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, NC State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Purdue, South Carolina, UCLA, Utah, UCF and Wake Forest all have monthly goals of $10,000 or less.

Access passes are being sold at Michigan State, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Kansas State, Minnesota, Oklahoma State and Texas.

“Athletes cumulatively earn in the six figures each month from NIL Clubs that didn’t exist 47 days ago,” Assaf said. “It is very early but I think athletes are doing an awesome job building their own communities and engaging with fans. It is a super exciting time for college athletes.”

YOKE, NIL clubs still in startup mode

Assaf and Nic Weishar are two of the three co-founders of YOKE. Assaf, the 24-year-old CEO of YOKE, walked on as a running back at Notre Dame. He roomed with New Orleans Saints quarterback Ian Book in college.

Players are not forced to join. Instead, they can sign a non-exclusive agreement, so players can still engage in other NIL activities, too. Athletes profit from YOKE by selling fans access to in-person and online events. Each NIL club website also has an online forum where athletes and fans can connect. Merchandise is coming soon, too.

“I would think of each NIL Club as a startup business that is run by college athletes,” Assaf said. “Our company provides business tools, technology, and best practices based on what we’ve seen across 30-plus clubs but we are not driving the ship.

“Athletes are deriving real entrepreneurial experience from their clubs — sometimes things fly out of the gates and sometimes you have to adjust your strategy and make some changes. This is a valuable lesson in business and in life.”

YOKE’s platform fee has decreased from 25% to 18% as the company’s scale has grown. Assaf told On3 there are plans in place to expand fan engagement.

If an entire roster signed up for the service, 105 players, and they wanted to each earn $1,000 a month, fans would have to invest nearly $1.5 million — $1,486,800 to be exact — annually. That number would factor in the 18%, or $226,800, YOKE will take to service and support the club. Plus, YOKE clubs are typically the second or third collective to join their NIL market.

Every YOKE NIL club will have an app available for iOS and Android, which is launching this fall. The platform does not plan on stopping with FBS schools. YOKE previously told On3 it has plans to expand past football and Division I.

NIL club’s monthly goal

On3 compiled a list of each NIL club’s monthly goals as of Monday, Sept. 5.