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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

Former Irish quarterback seeks to help athletes navigate NIL space

In 2018, Arike Ogunbowale hit back-to-back game-winning buzzer beaters in the national semifinal and championship to earn the Notre Dame women’s basketball team its first national title since 2001.

The historic feat further propelled Ogunbowale to stardom, even leading to an appearance on “Dancing with the Stars.” Despite the fame that arose from her burgeoning career, she could not profit off her name, image and likeness (NIL) while in college, former Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush said.

“Her fame just kind of exploded from that point on, and she obviously couldn't be compensated for it at the time,” Wimbush, who was a classmate of Ogunbowale said. “It kind of crossed my mind that this was something that needed to change.”

Soon after Wimbush completed his college football career at the University of Central Florida, momentum started to shift toward allowing college student-athletes to receive NIL opportunities. As a result, Wimbush teamed up with fellow Notre Dame alumnus Ayden Syal and they created MOGL in 2020, an online marketplace that can easily connect athletes with brand deals.

“The number one largest problem is that athletes don't have the time or the resources to source these deals and brands need a seamless and easy way to source the talent,” Syal said. “So, we're solving that problem, while also ensuring that athletes are navigating the space in an educated way.”

MOGL currently works with over 5,000 athletes and 1,400 brands, Syal, the company’s CEO, said. Athletes on the MOGL platform are able to connect with both nationally recognized and local brands.

As a former student-athlete, Wimbush knows firsthand the reach student-athletes have in their communities, even though he was never able to profit off his NIL during his college career. He estimated that he would have made around $100,000 each year he was quarterback.

“It was always in the back of your head that you couldn't make money,” Wimbush said.

Student-athletes have proven to be effective advertisers for all sorts of brands, Syal said. Unlike traditional influencers with national or international followings, college athletes are well-known within their campus community and alumni base and thus can better connect with potential customers, he explained.

“At the end of the day, people actually know these student-athletes. They're in class with them, they can resonate with them,” Syal said. “So, what we’ve found is it really has provided an incredible amount of value to these brands directly.”

While football players draw some of the most high-profile marketing deals, Syal said MOGL facilitates deals for athletes in all sports.

“Over 60% of the deals that we've done have been in non-revenue-generating sports,” he said. “We've really confirmed the thesis that all athletes provide value in this space.”

MOGL also facilitates deals for Division II and III and junior college athletes. Syal said student-athletes outside Division I often experience success in the NIL marketplace because they have to be more proactive to connect with brands. Amherst College wide receiver Jack Betts has become commonly known as a leader in the NIL space and uses MOGL for a large portion of his deals, Syal said.

One of the advantages of MOGL’s platform is it is fully compliant and automatically discloses all brand deals to the student-athlete’s university or college, Syal said. All brands are vetted to ensure they are compliant with state laws and university protocols before MOGL works with them.

Using MOGL is free for student-athletes. MOGL primarily generates revenue by charging a fee for the company that strikes a deal with the athlete. Wimbush said MOGL acquires about 175 student-athletes a week. One of the ways the company grows is through a referral program, Syal said.

“We have a pretty robust referral system with athletes who are on their campuses, where they get paid $5 for each athlete that they bring to the platform,” he said.

During the start-up's first few years, the Notre Dame network has played a large role in financing and developing MOGL, Syal said. Groups that have helped back MOGL include Irish Angels and the IDEA Center.

As NIL continues to grow, Syal said MOGL hopes to educate student-athletes as they navigate the wide-open marketplace. One concerning trend Syal has noticed is athletes often rush into deals without considering their long-term opportunities.

“What we've seen is that athletes have been really harmed by long term exclusivity clauses that really inhibit their ability to monetize their NIL in an effective way long term in favor of a short-term opportunity,” he said.

Additionally, athletes tend to sign exclusive deals with agents who take large portions of their revenue from marketing deals, when they could source the deal themselves, Syal added. The NIL market is new and constantly evolving, Wimbush said, making it difficult to project into the future.

“I do think it's gonna continue to evolve. As legislation comes about there's more regulations, there's more guardrails,” he said. “It could be a good or bad thing.”

Wimbush said although the future of the current wide open NIL world is uncertain, he said MOGL has and will continue to allow student-athletes to take advantage of the ever-evolving market in a safe manner.

“We've provided a very seamless and a holistic solution for all athletes to take advantage of their NIL in a reliable and a compliant manner,” he said. “We're doing it the way that we think is right, and it's going to provide value for athletes, universities, and all the rest of the stakeholders in the NIL space.”

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