opendorse partners with NFL Players Association for marketing platform

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Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 1:06 pm, Mon Mar 31, 2014.

opendorse, the Lincoln-based social media startup that pairs athletes and brands for endorsement campaigns, just had its biggest break yet. 

After just 21 months, the platform was sought out and licensed by NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFL Players Association.

The deal, unveiled late last week, opens the door for all 2,000-plus football players to get on the platform. 

opendorse has allowed small, local brands like Husker Auto Group, a Lincoln car dealership, to get Twitter shout outs and endorsement deals with stars like Prince Amukamara, a former Husker and New York Giants corner.

Now, every NFL player can log on to the NFL Players Inc.'s version of opendorse—called Activate—to get paired with brands and get paid for their endorsements. 

The NFL group chose to license and white label the platform, but opendorse will still run everything behind the scenes, co-founder Blake Lawrence told Silicon Prairie News. 

"This is an example of how we can license software to associations to help them improve their services to business partners and athletes," Lawrence said.

He thinks the model could take off for other leagues like the NBA or MLB. 

"We're heads down, doing our thing in the Silicon Prairie so hearing their interest energized our team," he said. "To have someone as big as (the NFL Players Inc.) come in within the first year or so of our business really shows we are solving a problem that's out there for folks like this."

The first step is getting as many football stars signed up as possible, Lawrence said. That way, it will improve the selection for brands now. opendorse athletes will also give brands already associated with the NFL, like Nike, EA Sports and Tide, an option for stronger social media presence.

In the past, opendorse had been acquiring athletes through personal relationships, marketing agencies or agents. The NFL Players Inc. deal will add a huge influx of options to the opendorse platform quickly, Lawrence said.

Players and brands both sign up on the site and then brands can browse registered players and pay them depending on their social media reach like Twitter followers. The software allows brands to get a big name endorser in seconds, instead of weeks of negotiations with agents.

opendorse also has analytics to track the return on investment for each tweet sent by the athlete.

Agents, brands and athletes can all sign up on the NFLPA's new site.

The startup finished a $300,000 seed round last summer and plans on raising a Series A round this spring. They think the NFLPA deal will spur interest from investors.

Read more about opendorse with our previous coverage: "Hurrdat secures investment, spins out endorsement platform opendorse." 

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