This summer, several student-athletes may begin making money from their name, image and likeness (NIL) while playing a sport in college. As of now, athletes attending school in New Mexico, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi will be able to do so starting July 1. This is a big deal for many universities, athletes and even startups.
Icon Source, for example, plans to tap into this new market by connecting college athletes with brands.
Icon Source, a Denver-based startup, was founded in 2019 by former motocross and marketing professional Chase Garrett as a way to connect brands of all sizes with professional athletes for short-term, time-sensitive or full-scale marketing initiatives. The company’s app and AI platform uses demographics, personal interests and schedules to pair an individual with a brand.
As the company launches into the collegiate market, Icon Source announced this week that it raised a $1.6 million seed round. This funding will be used to increase sales, marketing and development efforts.
“We believe we’re market leaders because we're the only ones doing this at a high level in the professional world — connecting small- and medium-sized businesses along with national and global brands to athletes at a large scale,” Garrett, who also serves as the company’s CEO, told Built In. “We wanted to really defend that space going into the college market.”
Since launching, Icon Source has worked with more than 250 brands, including Smith, Recoup Fitness and Fast. Garrett said the company has over 2,000 athletes on its platform including big names like Tom Brady, Kathleen Baker and Colorado local Redmond “Red” Gerard.
Icon Source’s revenue comes from transactions completed on the platform. There is no monthly retainer for a brand or athlete to join the platform, instead the startup makes money by taking a percentage of a transaction from the athlete and charging the brand a fee.
“We are a company that’s built by athletes funded by athletes, and we’re here to serve and protect them,” Garrett said. “We wanted to offer our solution that’s been vetted and proven for the student-athletes. … We also wanted to make sure that we had a significant amount of demand so that the right amount of brands that were on the platform ready to do deals for these athletes.”
Icon Source has grown from four employees to more than 14 over the last month. To date, the startup has raised a total of $2.1 million in seed funding. Garrett said he expects a Series A funding round to take place at the end of the year.