Michigan-focused Champions Circle collective formally launches

On3 imageby:Pete Nakos04/27/23


When Jared Wangler launched the Michigan-focused Champions Circle collective in June, he envisioned an NIL collective that bridged together the work his agency Valiant Management had already accomplished for athletes in Ann Arbor.

On Thursday, the collective formally launched with a website and endorsement from Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh. With heavy alumni support, fans can join the collective with subscription packages ranging from $10 to $500 monthly. Each tier comes with an annual option, too, with different perks included.

Donors who join the Victors tier will have access to the Champions Circle Legends Series, which will give supporters the opportunity to interact with former Michigan standouts. The Valiant level, the highest-subscription option for fans, will also receive the Michigan Leaders series, providing access to first-hand, behind-the-scenes accounts from the integral Wolverine staff members.

The Champions Collective has also released merchandise for fans to purchase.

Initially launched to focus on football and men’s basketball programs, the collective will now support all 29 Michigan athletic programs. Wangler founded the collective along with Phil Hollyer. Anna Britnell has been brought on as the director of Champions Circle.

“Champions Circle and VMG embody the core values of our program by providing NIL opportunities for our student-athletes,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “I consider them to be a trusted agent and encourage our Michigan family to support them in our NIL efforts.”

Champions Circle guided by leadership circle

The Champions Circle is being guided by a leadership circle consisting of Nate Forbes, Matt Lester, Navid Mahmoodzadegan and Tim Smith. The collective also has an advisory board, providing strategic guidance to the collective. Current board members include Jimmy King, Sierra Romero, John Wangler and Chris Wormley.

A sports marketing agency led by Wangler, Valiant Management has facilitated more than $4 million in NIL deals for Michigan athletes.

Champions Circle launched as the first collective in the Michigan market last June as a for-profit entity. Yoke’s Ann Arbor NIL Club is still running after being launched last summer. A blockchain-based fan community, MGoDao raises money for NIL deals by selling NFTs.

Stadium and Main functions as an LLC and is partially operated by the NIL company PlayBooked. Hail! Impact joined the market in April as a nonprofit. All five have been endorsed by athletic director Warde Manuel in a letter sent out to Michigan donors and fans.

For many collectives across the country, the race is to stockpile the most cash to distribute to current players so recruits know what they can make once they enroll at the college. Many expected the transfer portal to turn into free agency with major NIL packages. Instead, it has morphed into collectives signing players to deals for retention.

“We’re going to do this, but we’re going to do it the right way,” Wangler previously told On3. “And we’re not going to compromise our integrity for recruits or these NIL agents that are trying to shop recruits around. Because once you compromise it once, you’re kind of going down that path. That’s not where we want to be as a program. We want to dare recruits to come to Michigan. Come to Michigan, and you’ll see how much you can make. It is the biggest brand in college sports, has the strongest alumni network.

“It’s a three- to four-year earning period, rather than just getting a signing bonus or compensation package upfront. We think inevitably could implode the locker room because you’re looking at 18, 19-year-olds who haven’t even played a down yet in college, getting their signing bonus. It’s not the NFL, and it’s not the draft. It’s college sports, and so we’re looking at that way.”