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Michigan company fills a new niche by connecting college athletes to business opportunities

female volleyball players on a court by a net
Courtesy of PlayBooked

A new Michigan-based company is tapping into a market opened by a policy shift by the NCAA allowing student athletes to more readily use their name, image, and likeness to earn money. 

PlayBooked is an app that helps college athletes navigate business opportunities and legal rights following a reversal by the NCAA Board of Directors in June. 

It connects college athletes with brand sponsorships, helps them monetize interactions with fans. PlayBooked also offers legal guidance around what the Supreme Court decision allows.

"Think of it like a dating app,” said Patrick Werksma, one of the co-founders of PlayBooked. “Athletes sign up, they create a profile, and fans and brands can check out their profile. Athletes set their pricing on what they would endorse their company, endorse a product or what it would cost for an athlete fan to get just a simple shout out from them."

So far, the company has signed up more than 1,000 college athletes from across the country and a variety of sports. 

"There's some of these athletes that have immense value,” Werksma said. “And there's companies out here who want to get in touch with them and they see the value and they're willing to pay.” 

He said that Playbooked has been approached by companies that are interested in striking deals of $10,000 or more, but Werksma suggested that most athletes would likely earn just a couple hundred dollars a month. 

One of the initial ideas for the company came when Chloe Mitchell, a rising freshman and volleyball player at Aquinas College, drew in thousands of views for a video documenting her effort to transform a toolshed into what she called a "she shed." 

“I posted it, went to bed, woke up the next day, and I had 30,000 views,” Mitchell said. 

@chloevmitchellI’ll edit Day two on tiktok so it doesn’t look so bad ##coronasucks ##foryoupage ##bored ##morningcoffee ##morning ##happyathome ##tikrok_india ? Novice Juggler - Joey Pecoraro

Since then, she’s amassed a following of more than 2.5 million followers, and signed with an agent to navigate brand sponsorships with companies such as Target and Walmart. 

Mitchell worried that her sponsorships would make her ineligible to as an athlete set to play with an NAIA league, so she kept her connection to the sports quiet in her social media presence. 

As her following grew, Mitchell said she began to talk to her father, a former college football player, about the situation. “‘This is a whole part of my life that I don't want to leave out,’” she recalled telling him. “‘There are people that are following me to know the authentic and real Chloe.’”

The idea for Playbooked emerged after the NAIA scrapped it’s policy banning athletes on using their name, image, and likeness for monetary gain in October, and it launched after the NCAA followed suit at the end of June. 

The league had long adhered to a standard which considered student athletes to be amateur, preventing them from profiting from collegiate sports. The move followed a decision by a Supreme Court a few days prior which lifted a cap on the “education-related benefits” universities and colleges could extend to athletes. 

Mitchell said her brand will continue to focus on DIY projects, but a connection to another Michigan TikTok user through PlayBooked prompted a more adventurous feat: skydiving. 

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