Ole Miss-driven The Grove Collective surpasses $3 million goal

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Walker Jones felt confident The Grove Collective could hit its mark.

Turns out the Ole Miss-driven NIL collective surpassed its $3 million fundraising goal. The executive director of the NIL entity and former Rebel told On3 in a phone interview Thursday the organization raised more than $3 million in the last 10 days.

In lockstep with Ole Miss, the collective ran a seven-day NIL fundraising campaign last week. The week started with a nearly three-hour livestream on the athletic department’s YouTube channel that featured Lane Kiffin and Chris Beard publicly supporting the collective.

The first day of the campaign finished with roughly $1.7 million raised, with camouflage brand Realtree and its TV host Tyler Jordan making a major contribution.

“We’ve been planning that kind of collection days and kind of a week-long call to action for giving, we’ve been planning it for a couple of months,” Jones said. “We put a lot of resources into it. Not only the collective but the university. I mean the university did a heck of a job with us. The foundation, the athletic department and making the coaches available. Producing really high-quality live stream. Trying to help us amplify the message.

“I felt good just because we had a plan, and we had the support from the university and their resources. I felt like it was just coming at the right time. Fall camps and our kids are back in school. People can sense the first game starting, so there’s a lot of momentum. I felt like it was coming in at the right time, and we had the right amount of resources dedicated. I mean, you never know, but we felt like our people would respond, and they did.”

What does this mean for Ole Miss in NIL landscape?

When Jones took over as executive director of the collective in September, he had some heavy lifting to do. Ole Miss was playing catch-up in NIL, a position no collective wants to be in.

By late November, the collective topped the $10 million mark in fundraising. It remains one of the top reported totals in the NIL collective market. While Jones hammered home the importance of donors contributing to The Grove, he made sure the collective was locating revenue outside of the fan base through deals with local and national brands.

Adding more than $3 million to the bank account makes a strong statement before Ole Miss even starts its football season. When On3 released its top 20 ambitious NIL collective rankings at the end of June, The Grove clocked in at No. 9 on the list. At the time the collective had contracts with 165 athletes with at least one player from each varsity sport.

“Their school has really gotten behind Walker and his team,” a source recently told On3.

The Grove Collective’s success surely played a role in Kiffin’s return to Oxford. The NIL program was also attractive to athletes in the portal, as Kiffin and the Rebels picked up Spencer Sanders and Walker Howard.

Re-signing Quinshon Judkins in early December definitely made a statement before the portal opened. Collectives have become the leading source of compensation in the first two years of NIL.

Where the collective now stands in the SEC, Jones isn’t sure. But he’s confident in the backing fans and donors have put in NIL.

“I don’t know where that ranks on the grand scale thing,” he said. “I think that being able to raise $3 million in seven to 10 days, really, I think speaks to the trust and the commitment our fanbase has in our collective and really in NIL. I mean, take the collective out of it. If they didn’t believe in NIL or thought it was going away, regardless of how well we were run on The Grove Collective side, they wouldn’t give to it.

“The fact that they trust, not only the collective but also NIL is a real deal. It makes all the difference.”