Casey Schwab on Big Ten Today on SIRIUSXM
On June 29, 2020, Altius Sports Partners CEO + Founding Partner Casey Schwab joined Rhett Lewis and Anthony Herron on Big Ten Today on SiriusXM to discuss Altius, the NIL market landscape, and potential opportunities for student-athletes.
The following radio interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Rhett Lewis: It is our pleasure to welcome in one of the men right in the middle of the NIL conversation, the CEO and Founding Partner of Altius Sports Partners. He's one of the best pick up basketball players in all the land, he is a proud Wisconsin Badger, he is one of the smartest guys in all of sports, and just an all-around good guy. Everybody welcome Casey Schwab to Big Ten Today. Casey, hello! How are you?
Casey Schwab: That was quite an intro, Rhett! None of that was true besides the part about pickup hoops. But it's great to be on guys, good to talk to you.
Rhett Lewis: I know you can sweat. I don't really know that you can play, but I know that you can put in the effort, and that kind of effort I'm sure is appreciated by all of your partners in your founding of Altius Sports Partners. I know you have a partnership now with my alma mater, with Indiana University in the Big Ten Conference, and it's one of many that you have in the SEC, now in the Pac 12, and in the Big 12. And Casey, we've kind of been joking about what's actually going to happen on Thursday and when. We've seen the Graham Mertz logo come out from your alma mater there at Wisconsin, What is actually going to happen a minute past midnight eastern time on Thursday? Is something actually going to happen?
Casey Schwab: Yeah, I think so. First of all, seriously thanks for having me on. Rhett, it's great to hear you voice again and Anthony good to connect with you. Big fan of your guys' show, obviously a big fan of Rhett Lewis.
Look, here's what's going to happen. There's going to be a small number of legitimate big deals. And that's not to be negative, but you guys know, from the professional world, that the percentage of endorsement deals that are five or six figures is very low. From my time at the NFL Players Association and before that Fox Sports, and working with NFL Network, working with pro athletes both current and former, the percentage is low even for professional athletes. And if you think about two things in the collegiate landscape. Number 1, there’s a very high supply side of the equation because there’s a lot of athletes. And number 2, and I don’t know how much you guys have dug into the regulatory landscape, but it’s complicated. Because you’ve got all these different rules, you’ve got the NCAA, you’ve got disclosure requirements from compliance departments… and if you’re a marketer, if you’re the marketing manager for Subway, or Verizon, or Progressive, it’s just complicated. And do you wanna call your legal department, or do you wanna just go back and hire somebody that’s easier? And again, that’s not to be negative, but I think the number of big deals is going to be low, but there will be some. We are working with one school in the SEC who has a young student-athlete, a female student-athlete, who is signing six deals at 12:01 on July 1st. They're holding a little press conference for her, and those six deals add up to a lot of money. I'm not going to disclose how much, but those will be few and far between.
The second thing that’s gonna happen, is there’s gonna be a lot of, what I call, "dudes working out of the trunk of their car" trying to capitalize, and they're aspiring sports agents wanting to get into the sports business. They’re gonna be trying to sign deals and get to all of these collegiate athletes and convince them that they should take a hundred bucks or, worse yet, take some free march to do some quote-unquote NIL deals and that’s the scary part.
Anthony Herron: And I wonder, because part of that comparison you're drawing there relates to a curiosity I have in my head, because I wonder if it will be the bigger market teams. You know the Michigan, Michigan State are both in sort of urban hubs, whereas some other institutions are going to be more in kind of small, collegiate towns like my alma mater, the Iowa Hawkeyes. Are there going to be more partnerships, is there going to be a more consistent landscape for athletes perhaps in smaller towns who are kind of bigger fish in a small pond like the Hawkeyes? Or maybe more in a commerce hub like Michigan State and Ann Arbor and East Lansing, where there's more opportunities? But you also have a lot of professional sports in the area where maybe a partner's going to be more invested in those? Do you see the big commerce hub or the small college town that may have more consistent partnerships available?
Casey Schwab: This is a terrible answer, Anthony, but I think it's both. But I think it's different for each. So you asked me what's going to happen on July 1 at 12:01, not what's going to happen over the next three, six, twelve months. Which, over the course of the next year, to that point Anthony, I think what’s gonna happen in the smaller markets is there are going to be a lot of opportunities for appearances in places like Bloomington or Madison, even places like Ann Arbor. But in the smaller towns you’re gonna have appearances, you’re gonna have meet and greets at the Rotary Club, you’re going to have speaking engagements, autograph signing sessions. I do think those things, those types of opportunities are going to be more prevalent in the smaller college towns because let’s face it, you guys know this—Anthony you were one of them and Brett so were you— they’re celebrities. The athletes in these Big10 towns are absolute celebrities. Not to say in big cities like LA or New York or Atlanta or even Ann Arbor in the Big10, they’re not celebrities, but there’s just more going on. So I do think those appearances in the small markets are going to be prevalent.
On the flip side, in the bigger markets, there’s going be more of the opportunities for the longer term, what you traditionally think about as endorsements, like being an endorser like Baker Mayfield and Progressive, or Lebron and Sprite. They’re just going to be closer proximity to the marketing people, so it’s going to be easier to meet them.
And then the last category is social media which is going to be huge. And there’s no geographic restrictions to that, and frankly, I don’t think that really ties to performance on the field that much. It’s more like personality, and are you creative, and interesting, or funny, and all of the adjectives that I would use to describe Rhett Lewis—creative, interesting, and funny—if you’re those things, then you’re gonna have opportunities on social media regardless of where you play or what city you’re in.
Rhett Lewis: Casey Schwab with us, Founding Partner of Altius Sports Partners. You know, as I mentioned, just all around good guy. I mean clearly, he knows who he's talking to here and I appreciate that plug. I mean I would've just been a multimedia mogul at this point if NIL had gone into effect back in 2001 when I was in Bloomington, Indiana. But speaking of Bloomington, Casey, as you guys have now partnered with Indiana. Just comparatively speaking here, Indiana is one of ten states that has no legislation moving forward on the state level towards some sort of NIL governance here. How does your role with Indiana compare to your role with, let’s say, a school like the University of Texas in the state of Texas that has a bill passed that will go into effect on July 1st?
Casey Schwab: Our role doesn’t change that much. Our role is the sherpa, we’re the guide. We’re talking to the coaches about recruiting, we’re talking to the AD and the administration about policy and drafting these policies… and most importantly it’s getting in front of the athletes and talking to them. The interesting thing about this whole NIL landscape, unlike anything else in the history of college sports, when an athlete comes to their compliance officer, or their coach, or their AD and says, “Should I do this deal?” Not, “Can I?” because the “Can I?” is going to be, “Yes,” outside of vice categories like alcohol and gambling. But the, “Should I do this deal?” question, schools and everybody in administration and us as an extension, have to take their hands off. Unlike everything else, we have to take the hands off, because of all this litigation and all these lawsuits, this is really a “teach the athletes how to fish” as opposed to “fish for them.”
So where we come in is getting in front of these athletes and saying, “Look, we’re not going to tell you what to do, but we’re going to give you real world examples as to good deals, bad deals, taxes, Uncle Sam." And I mean this, it sounds sort of corny, but there’s nothing better than getting up in front of these groups of young men and women and having the lightbulbs go off. And they start asking us questions. “Wait a minute, am I gonna still be a dependent on my mom and dad’s taxes, or what happens there?”
Rhett Lewis: That's a great question.
Casey Schwab: And they’re asking questions like, “Well what about, if I’m wearing a Nike shirt or an Adidas shirt at your alma mater Rhett, at Indiana, but I still wanna do a deal with Nike, how does that work?” They’re asking these questions, literally asking questions about taxes and intellectual property. I had a deputy AD tell me after one of the presentations that she was flabbergasted that one of her football players had raised his hand and said, “Can we get some financial literacy around taxes?” And again, it sounds corny, but that’s the fun part.
And to go back to your question, Rhett, specifically about Indiana and these states that don’t have laws, I firmly believe, and I have good reason to believe, that they’re in a better position today than every other state that has a law because the way this is structured is basically there’s two buckets. There’s bucket one: schools in states that have laws. Don’t break your law. And these laws, they’re not NCAA rules, they’re state laws so you don’t wanna break them, right. And some of them are lighter, like California is lighter. Some of them are a little bit more robust, but there’s a bunch of restrictions. The second bucket, where Indiana sits, is: if you don’t have a law on the books, here are three or four guiding principles, create your own policy. And that just comes down to control. Meaning Indiana, Scott Dolson and his whole administration and with us, we have the ability to kind of craft a policy that works, that balances all their interests and ultimately supports their athletes.
You can probably hear it, Rhett. I’m super pumped. I’m super pumped to get there in Bloomington, and I’m super pumped to make you fly in so you can show me your favorite restaurant.
Rhett Lewis: Here we go everybody, Casey Schwab. You can find him @caseydschwab on Twitter. CEO of Altius Sports Partners and we're excited to see where you guide schools and college athletics in the future, and we thank you for your time man.
Casey Schwab: Thank you guys I really appreciate it.