(*INFLCR is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports)
Mario Balotelli set the Internet on fire last week when he took to Instagram to celebrate his goal.
Just over 16 years since Joe Horn brought out a cell phone in celebration, Balotelli’s move showcased how both technology and athlete’s leverage has changed.
INFLCR and IMAGN (part of the USA Today network) hope to take advantage of this trend.
Thanks to a new partnership between the two, INFLCR clients will be able to have access to national media content in an on-demand format.
For INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale, the deal represents the continued evolution of the 18-month-old company and an opportunity to empower its growing athlete user network that includes the likes of future pro athletes like Josh Allen and Zion Williamson. This deal allows INFLCR to engage these athletes from the time they are in school to all the way to when they take the field or court for their professional careers.
Pumped a/b this weekend’s @NFLCombine. @INFLCR is distributing national media content directly to the phones of 157 #INFLCR athlete users, so they can tell their own story on social, from this wknd that they’ve worked so hard to get to! Let’s go boys! Seize your moment! #smsports pic.twitter.com/3BR3zn36V0
— Jim Cavale (@jimcavale) March 1, 2019
“Many of the athletes that are using the platform to access internally-curated content produced by our client schools, are going to go on to play their sport professionally,” said Cavale. “We want to make sure that we continue to have a relationship with them through delivering national media of their pro career, and this partnership with IMAGN allows us to do just that.”
Not only is the deal about the future, it’s about the present, too. The combined forces of the two companies give athletic departments more resources at their disposal, something that Blake James, athletic director for INFLCR client University of Miami, sees as a bonus for both his staff and Miami’s student-athletes.
“Possessing the editorial rights to national media content in an on-demand format both during and immediately after our athletics events is a big value-add for our team staff and student-athletes to access through INFLCR and share to their social media channels in real-time,” James said.
Although the two parties just recently announced the partnership, some athletes and clients have already had the chance to see what it can do in action.
For example, at this year’s NFL Combine, 136 of the competing athletes leveraged the partnership to download and post more than 300 total pieces of content shot by IMAGN and delivered in personalized galleries through the INFLCR app. This will continue for the more than 2500 INFLCR college athlete users as they ascend to the professional ranks.
One of those athletes was Jarrett Stidham, the former Auburn quarterback and NFL Draft hopeful who has used INFLCR since his sophomore season at Auburn
Stidham, who used the platform in college, sees it as an opportunity not only for him but also for other players to truly own the moment when it comes content around their games and competitions.
“These are moments that we work really hard for and we want these moments captured,” Stidham said. “Whether it’s the last touchdown in the Iron Bowl or whatever it may be, being able to capture certain moments and being able to share certain moments is what it’s all about. Going into the pros and being able to have this at the swipe of my finger is so convenient.”
Like Cavale, Stidham and James, IMAGN President Bruce Odle sees the partnership as a way to solve one of the bigger problems in what he calls a “broken system.”
“Because of the explosion of social media, the interest of athletes to post images of themselves in a performance context is high, but there are no easy or legitimate means for them to do it,” Odle said. “Many athletes end up scraping an image published on a website somewhere, opening them up for a copyright infringement liability and ultimately not giving the photographer credit for their work.”
Odle has been a longtime advocate for a solution like INFLCR, and for years, believed that IMAGN was just one piece of the puzzle away from having something that not only athletes could take advantage of but celebrities too. He believes INFLCR is that missing piece.
“To make this work, there are two elements. There is the platform and there is the content,” he said. “If you can connect the dots in a way that is intentional and a way that will help both parties, everyone will benefit from the process.”
While Cavale sees the opportunity as an evolution of the business, Odle views the partnership as something created by the shift in media attention from linear channels to social accounts on platforms controlled by the athletes and influencers themselves.
And while it might be a shift, being able to play by the rules will prove pivotal for future success.
“Social media platforms have enabled all consumers to be their own personal publisher by creating an ecosystem that is akin to a publishing environment,” said Odle. “That doesn’t mean they can’t follow the rules. Thanks to this deal, we are giving people, specifically athletes the opportunity to play by the rules while leveraging the amount of content we have.”
Just like we’ve evolved from a phone call on a flip phone to a video celebration posted on IG, INFLCR and IMAGN hope that they can deliver a solution that brings an industry from stolen images with watermarks to high-quality, on-demand content.
(*INFLCR is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports)