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First Pop-Up NIL Store Selling Illinois Basketball Player Jerseys

First Pop-Up NIL Store Selling Illinois Basketball Player Jerseys article feature image
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Chris Kohley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kofi Cockburn.

On Friday, in Chicago, the first ever name, image and likeness store popped up.

Inside, University of Illinois fans could get a Kofi Cockburn jersey or scan the QR code that led to his webpage with other items.

While stories of multi-million dollar name, image and likeness deals are taking over, this is the original idea behind the rule — allow athletes to make money off of their merchandise.

The pop-up store, which will stay open until the end of the NCAA Tournament, is the brain child of Campus Ink, a school clothing wholesaler whose roots go back to 1947 on the University of Illinois campus.

While it’s not clear whether actual brick-and-mortar stores are a profitable idea, the business is certainly set up to serve as e-commerce outlets.

Adam Cook, who runs the company’s NIL efforts, says that the margins remain good because they can print upon order — including print on blank jerseys the minute someone walks into the pop up and orders a Cockburn 21.

Pictured: Campus Ink’s pop-up Illini store

Boosted by an investment from Mark Cuban, who answered a cold e-mail from a company executive, Campus Ink is being aggressive. Aside from Illinois players, the brand has signed UConn freshman guard Jordan Hawkins and recently inked a deal with Virginia Tech’s Hunter Catoor, who led the Hokies over Duke to win the ACC Tournament.

Cook said that Campus Ink has always made its mark by putting control in the hands of the students and, in the process, learning the business. In that vein, Cockburn and other players can log into their own pages and see their store sales at any time.

Since September, Cook says Campus Ink has paid back $75,000 to Illini players, who take on Chattanooga on Friday, in royalties.

Pictured: merchandise from Campus Ink’s Illini store

While much of the NIL focus is on the star athletes, some of whom need guarantees to be convinced to give their exclusive NIL rights to a company like Campus Ink, Cook says athletes from non-revenue sports, who don’t come with the same upfront cost, could become good businesses and go viral in unexpected ways.

It’s also wild to think what type of money could have been generated by the most coveted stars in today’s world. The revenue stream that would be available to someone like Christian Laettner — or even a player who hit a memorable shot, like Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, or player who took a team through an unexpected ride, like Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh. Now we’ll start find out exactly how much these players and moments are worth.

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