When the Los Angeles Rams take the podium during next week's NFL draft, brands and sponsors will get a look at the new wave of football talent. But this morning, it just got a lot easier to work with players who have left the field behind.
IMG today unveils The Football Greats Alliance, which offers brands and advertisers a one-stop shop for marketing rights, approvals, contracting and financing for a group that includes more than 160 Hall of Famers, 50 Heisman winners, 225 broadcasters and 35 NFL MVPs.
Two years ago, IMG won the rights to create an agency dedicated to handling the marketing and licensing rights for some 22,000 retired players. The agency is the result of a lawsuit brought by former players against NFL Films for using their images without permission. The group was awarded $50 million, and the Pro Football Retired Players Association was created.
The goal of the Football Greats Alliance, according to Drew Sheinman, svp of brand development, IMG, was to create "value beyond the $50 million dollars."
Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who chairs the alliance, said "the FGA will provide opportunities for retired players to band together for a wide variety of partnerships. These deals will have direct financial benefits to the players involved, and more importantly, will provide revenue for the Greater Good Fund which will benefit the health and welfare of retired players."
These days, there is a ton of value to be had in being a former NFL player, especially with the league's 100th anniversary coming during the 2019 season.
According to a study with more than 3,000 NFL fans, IMG found that 65 percent said their favorite player of all time is retired. Other the key findings found that:
- 81 percent agree retired players make excellent spokesmen.
- 79 percent agree retired players are an important part of American pop culture.
- 72 percent want a greater selection of retired player jerseys.
- 63 percent are more likely to consider purchasing a product if it's connected to their favorite retired player.
"Former players have never been more relevant," said Sheinman, who says the new group should make things more efficient for brands, such as trading card and video game companies, which need to secure rights for a wide array of players. "Opposed to the past, they had to go and pick off player by player to get the rights they wanted," he said. Now its much more turnkey and efficient."
While many former players have their own representation, the Football Greats Alliance holds the rights when it concerns a large number of players. For instance, brands that want to lock in licensing rights for a group of 50 or more players—or sponsorships for six or more—have to go through the organization.
"It doesn't preclude us from going individually," explains Sheinman, but former players who don't have the cache of more popular ones stand to benefit from the group play. "The best of the best is going to drive value for frankly a lot of the lesser-known players that really need the money and the benefits."
During Super Bowl 50, the alliance worked with Anheuser-Busch, a major NFL sponsor, on a campaign for Bud Light to market its Super Bowl 50 commemorative bottles. Along with an activation in San Francisco's Union Square during Super Bowl week, Bud Light ran a national ad during the game that highlighted Super Bowl plays from the past—the Football Greats Alliance secured the game footage.
IMG said it's in talks with other major NFL sponsors and brand partners including Visa, New Era and DirecTV.