How College Athletes & Creators Can Leverage Crypto

We interviewed Ian Brown, the CEO and co-founder of ACIB, a sports marketing and athlete management agency. Ian and his co-founder Andre both played football in college and during their senior year, they began to wonder what they would do after graduation. Around that time the NIL (Name Image Likeness) rule started being addressed due to increasing public pressure. Up until recently, college athletes were prohibited from accepting endorsement money for their athletic achievements. Meanwhile, the NCAA (The National Collegiate Athletic Association) and individual universities had been profiting from students for decades. “American college athletics is a $14 billion dollar annual business, but NCAA athletes do not receive a salary or benefits, are not cut into the profit system, and are precluded from entering the free market or signing any endorsement deals.”

So in 2021, the NCAA approved the NIL Policy, giving student athletes the possibility to monetize their fandom. This of course opened the door to crypto. So Ian and Andre were quickly differentiated themselves by becoming one of the first (and still few) agencies focused on bringing together crypto and college sports.

ACIB have 12 coins on Rally and their athletes love it. “Being able to utilize platforms that allow athletes to engage with the communities that they're a part of is perfect for college. For the longest, college athletes haven't been able to monetize off of their name, image and likeness while these huge fan bases are around them honestly wanting to have more access, wanting to give these kids money. But they've never been able to do it. With the help of Rally, Bonfire, and the likes in Web3, athletes and creators are able to access their communities in a way that has never been possible, and it's been incredible,” says Ian.

Successful Use Cases

The first coin ACIB launched was with Jaylen Clark, a basketball player at UCLA, and video content creator. He was the first college athlete to release his own cryptocurrency. And because of that, he got a ton of buzz around it. Through his coin, he's been able to reach the UCLA community in a way that wasn’t possible before. With the help of Bonfire, he’s used airdrops to get as many people coins as possible so they can participate in his community. Beyond that, Jalen offers jerseys, shoes, and experiences on his YouTube page.

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What’s interesting about Jaylen’s use cases with crypto is that his drops aren’t structured around the basketball part of his life, but more so around his YouTube drops. So when a YouTube drop is coming up, a giveaway is more than likely also coming up, and someone in the giveaway will have the opportunity to give input on his next video. In other words, Jaylen offers an unforgettable experience to a fan by giving them full access to him and letting them collaborate on his next video. ACIB has intentionally guided athletes to think outside of their sport so that they find other creative outlets.

Another ACIB athlete and creator, Tyger is known for doing Super Smash Bros tournaments where fans can enter to play against him. He also offers them exclusive giveaways, such as limited-edition merchandise.

Andre Chevalier, the coach at Sierra Canyon, a private school known for their incredible basketball team auctions off tickets to Sierra Canyon games where you can sit courtside. Those games are remarkable, for several reasons. Not only are these amateur athletes super talented, but you also never know who might be at a game. You could be sitting next to Drake one night, tells Ian.

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Some of ACIB’s musicians like Eric Bellinger, Take45, and Lil Kari are doing tiered access on their Discord and/or Telegram and in each tier, community members are able to unlock different rewards. For example, in the Bronze tier, you have access to the Discord server. Community members are active and engaged in conversation. With the Silver tier, you’re rewarded with merch. You're getting access to what new merch might look like before anyone else gets to see it. In the Gold and Platinum tier, you're able to have a lot more input. Ian calls it, “the digital street team” for their music creators, and that entails looking toward the community to have roles that will boost engagement. The digital street team would have a say in what’s going to be introduced to the larger community.

ACIB creators have mainly done airdrops, but there are plans for bounties in the future. Bounties are an easy way for creators to reward their fans for completing tasks that need doing. They can also be used to onboard more web2 fans into web3. Up next will be Eric Bellinger, a Grammy-award winning musician who’s planning on releasing some bounties after his tour is over.

Onboarding web2 fans

“The best way to build these fan communities isn't necessarily by asking for them to pay for something right away, but it's getting them into the community and then figuring out what they want and what access the creator wants to give back to that community,” suggests Ian. For example, ACIB athletes did a token tourney recently with lots of giveaways during March Madness. Through that, they had a 54% average increase in total supporters over the month.

According to Ian, web2 creators need to understand that web3 is just another piece of their portfolio. They do not have to move all of their web2 fans over to web3. It can be a space for the people who are either already in crypto and are extremely comfortable with it, or the people who are really big fans and want that extra access and exclusive rewards.

It's really difficult for creators to know based on their social media following how many people in their audience are true fans. Web3 allows creators to see directly who those people are and then address whatever needs they want from the community. Ian advises that when it comes to web2, creators can keep things as business as usual and treat web3 as an extra perk.

Getting started

For creators who want to get started in web3, Ian says the first step is education. “Educate yourself. Get in on Crypto Twitter. Know what's going on. And ask your community how they feel about crypto and blockchain. Test the waters a little bit before you jump in, but once you kind of know what the water is looking like, don't be afraid to jump.“ He is adamant that crypto is here to stay, and recommends trying it out while it’s still early.

Another piece of advice for getting started is communication. Ian believes communication is a key part of creating successful tokenized communities. Creators need to communicate with their community members, ask what they want, understand their needs, and build from there. For more information on going from a web2 creator to web3 read this article.