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Startup NIL Ventures launches first partnership with Rice University baseball

NIL Ventures
Photo credit: NIL Ventures/Rice

A new brand is joining the name, image and likeness game by forming collectives to support student-athletes in baseball programs across the country.

NIL Ventures launched its first partnership with Rice University baseball on Friday, announcing the formation of the H-Town Baseball Collective. As part of the partnership, NIL Ventures seeks to give fans “unparalleled access” to players through exclusive media content and events, in turn allowing them to immerse themselves in their favorite program’s journey throughout the year.

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“We’re focusing on the players and creating the best content,” Liam Peers, Co-Founder of NIL Ventures, told The NIL Deal in an exclusive interview revealing the partnership. “Our philosophy is if we create the best content and give the players a platform that they’re gonna want, then we’re going to be able to get more people to buy in.”

Peers continued: “We’re going to try to highlight their personalities because in college football it seems like everybody knows a little bit about (Michigan running back) Blake Corum or (Alabama quarterback) Bryce Young, but not a lot of people know about (Rice baseball players) J.D. McCracken and Cullen Hannigan. These guys are pretty big personalities that have a lot to say and we’re trying to get them more exposure.”

As Peers put it, Rice was an easy first choice in choosing their jumping off point.

“When we were coming up with schools to reach out to, we were looking for schools that either have a history of success, located in big cities or have huge alumni networks. Rice checked all the boxes,” Peers said. “Rice won a national championship 20 years ago, and they are located in Houston, which is college baseball recruiting heaven… The players are super responsive. Getting to know them, they’ve all been great so far, creating really great content for us and it sounds like they got it.”

Peers continued: “They got a new coach last year and it sounds like a lot of guys are transferring in and there is a lot more excitement around the program. The guys are really into it because with college baseball, a lot of these guys aren’t swimming in NIL money like they are in football, so they’re really excited about the opportunity.”

While many collectives consist of alumni and high value donors, NIL Ventures looks to utilize a more grassroots movement, appealing to the hardcore fan first. Because many collectives across the country specialize in supporting football and basketball programs, Peers believes the buy-in for other small sports is there.

“We’re open to all but are really trying to appeal to the fans that go to the games. I think everybody that shows up to games would pay an extra $10 to get the better player so then the team wins,” Peers said.

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An idea that began in the summer of 2022 officially became reality for Peers and fellow founder Alex Luong as of the beginning of 2023. Despite the brand being just a month old, Peers told The NIL Deal there is traction from other programs, however they could not be disclosed at this time. When asked about the future and goals of NIL Ventures, Peers said the map has yet to be written.

“From the jump we didn’t necessarily know what kind of product we were gonna build, we just knew we wanted to create something that players would want to be a part of and fans are gonna want to pay for, so there’s no roadmap for that,” Peers said. “The goal in 2023 is to work with as many schools as possible and we think Rice is going to be a really good opportunity for us and the players. We have some other schools that are waiting on compliance approval from the schools and we think those are also going to be really big, getting big time programs involved, getting fans going out to games, getting players paid and changing the landscape in college baseball.”