Can virtual reality help pro athletes train more effectively? How much should players sleep? How can Big Data help teams make better decisions, both on and off the field? How can teams incorporate fantasy sports into their game-day experience?
The National Football League players union is seeking some answers.
The NFL Players Association has announced the launch of the OneTeam Collective, an accelerator for companies related to the business of sports. The program will provide startups access to investors and mentors, while the NFLPA will offer its members for licensing and marketing—essentially using athletes as human capital.
To create the accelerator, the NFLPA has partnered with a half dozen major names from the industry: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Madrona Venture Group, Intel, Harvard Innovation Lab, LeadDog Marketing Group and the Sports Innovation Lab. KPCB, Madrona and Intel will provide consulting services and potential funding to the accelerator’s members, while the Harvard lab will provide facilities for events and competitions.
OneTeam Collective will also have a six-member athlete advisory board that will work with founders and provide strategic input. The initial members of the board include former linebacker and current host of the CNBC show “Adventure Capitalists” Dhani Jones, offensive tackle Russell Okung, and linebacker and cancer survivor Mark Herzlich.
The accelerator is currently accepting applications from prospective companies and plans to host its first pitch day at the Super Bowl in Houston next February.
NFL labor is now going where its ownership has already ventured. In 2013, the league announced a partnership with Providence Equity Partners with plans to invest $300 million in media and technology companies involved in the world of sports, primarily via growth investments of between $25 million and $50 million each. That followed the NFL's 2011 plans to start a $32 million venture fund—using $1 million from each team—to invest in other football-related companies.
In all, 2016 has been a year marked by crossovers between investing and sports. That includes Kobe Bryant’s launch of a $100 million fund, six former pro baseball players teaming to launch Dugout Ventures last week and the purchase of Swansea City Football Club by Oaktree Capital Management co-founder Steve Kaplan in the spring.