Deep dive into the history of group licensing with Steven Scbelo from NFL Players Inc.
After the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was negotiated in 2017, Steve Scebelo, President of NFL Players Inc. approached Becca Roux, Executive Director of the USWNT Players Association (USWNTPA), with a “brilliant idea.”
“It was a borrowed idea, but one that made a lot of sense…” said Scebelo. After watching The Today Show in 2017 and seeing Players talk about the importance of group licensing and seeing them deciding to take back their likeness rights to monetize themselves, Scebelo saw it as an opportunity to step in.
Group licensing is the ability to license their own name, image and likeness (NIL) and was an untapped source of revenue for increasingly famous athletes in a market where very little product existed.
The timing of it all aligned perfectly with what NFL Players Inc. was looking into as an opportunity to do for other Players Associations; many of whom did not have the same resources as they did. NFLPI had been monetizing their players’ NIL for the benefit of their Players Association membership for a year and a half at that point through various licensing agreements. .
When Scebelo brought the idea to them after the USWNTPA announced that they had taken back the (NIL)rights for the use of consumer products, they were unsure of where to start and how to monetize them so the players could make money in addition to the Federation.
After expressing to Roux that the NFL Players Inc. believed in the USWNT Players value and that they could help them with that enhancement of the members off field earnings, the clock started ticking.
Scebelo noticed that there was absolutely no merchandise following the 2015 win. “To see that the Players had the foresight to take those group licensing rights in house, really spoke to us and we looked at it as an opportunity to help them build their business. We knew the demand was there, pent up, and knew that those players were going to win again, but we wanted them to be prepared to capitalize from their on-field success.” All of this occurred while those players were being told that USWNT name and number jerseys “were not worth anything and that no one ever cared to monetize beyond that because there was no value in them [the NIL rights].”
Though the Players cannot go back and redeem the royalties from those missed years, they took the opportunity to come together with other Player Associations and work as a team to capture everything from then on. It was really a matter of putting the program in place, so that the Players would be paid for everything they do, and for the fans to celebrate their success off the pitch with readily available merchandise to show their fandom.
Fast forward to November of 2017, the NFL Players Inc., USWNTPA, and the WNBPA launched a new business called, Rep Worldwide. With the three founding partners collectively saying to the industry, “we’re going to work together to create merchandise that meets the demands of the fanbase, and celebrates the players through licensing.”
Within a time frame of less than two years, a pipeline was built of 30 licensees who were a good fit for the USWNTPA. Typically, the life cycle of a company saying yes, confirming product launches, and having items on the shelf for purchase takes at least 18-24 months according to Scebelo. From those 30 initial licensees through consumer products, about $15 million in sales were generated, translating to about $1 million in revenue that went directly to the Players.
“Everyone talks about NIL now, that’s what these programs are. But again, it previously did not exist for them. So we put the pieces in place, built that program and it was awesome to see,” Scebelo explained.
Rep Worldwide has now morphed into a new company, known as OneTeam Partners, encompassing the majority of Players Associations including: MLBPA and NFLPA as the founding partners while bringing on the WNBPA, USWNTPA, MLSPA, USRPA, NWSLPA.
“As Terri Jackson, Executive Director of the WNBPA always says, Bet On Women. There’s a business to be built here and finding other partners and helping build that business has been great. Now it’s really fun to see fans get so excited to get their gear and represent their favorite player and to give those royalty checks to the Players; it’s not a bad thing,” Roux expressed.
Steve Scebelo, NFL Players Inc. President
Becca Roux, USWNTPA Executive Director
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