In case you missed it, Dinkytown Athletes launched last month as the first Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) collective in support of student-athletes at the University of Minnesota.
If you follow college athletics at all, you’re likely aware that NIL rights have opened the door for booster and influencers to build collectives that create financial opportunities for student-athletes, with varying levels of sophistication. So what kind of a collective is Dinkytown Athletes and how does it work? We reached out to Derek Burns, co-founder of Dinkytown Athletes and a former football player at Minnesota, to lend us his insight into this new organization.
The Daily Gopher: Can you explain to our readers what Dinkytown Athletes is and how it supports student-athletes at the University of Minnesota?
Derek Burns: Dinkytown Athletes is a Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) collective dedicated to:
- Creating opportunities for student-athletes at the University of Minnesota
- Providing access for supporters
- Waking up the sleeping giant
Dinkytown Athletes collates support from local businesses, fans, and donors and helps student-athletes create NIL activities such as youth clinics, merchandising, fan engagements, and strategic business partnerships.
TDG: Dinkytown Athletes supports student-athletes across a variety of sports at Minnesota. Are all University of Minnesota student-athletes part of the collective or do they have to opt in to participate?
DB: Student-athletes are invited to join the collective based on the support of its members. Dinkytown Athletes has the framework in place to scale support to all sports teams and student-athletes. Dinkytown Athletes also operates in a manner reflective of the University of Minnesota’s long held commitment to equitable opportunities for all Student-athletes
TDG: “Collective” has become something of a buzzword around college athletics over the last year. Dinkytown Athletes is itself a collective. Are there different types of NIL collectives and how is Dinkytown Athletes similar or different to some of the other collectives that have sprouted up around the country?
DB: There are two main types of collectives:
“Agency Collective” supports student-athletes at the University by serving as intermediaries between student-athletes and local businesses/fans looking to leverage a student-athlete’s NIL. Dinkytown Athletes fits this type.
“Direct Pay Collective” partner with local non-profit organizations and pay student-athletes for charitable activities.
TDG: There is a membership component to Dinkytown Athletes, allowing fans to join at different membership levels and receive exclusive benefits in return. How are their membership fees distributed among student-athletes and what are the benefits of signing up to be a member?
DB: When you become a member, you can direct up to 90% of your membership cost to whichever sports teams you’d like to support. We will use your membership contributions to support the student-athletes in our collective within the sports you choose.
Becoming a member gets you exclusive access to the student-athletes themselves through online digital content, live meet and greets, online Q&As, gaming sessions, exclusive merchandise, memorabilia, and more.
TDG: Obviously this collective is a platform for student-athletes to monetize and benefit from their name, image, and likeness. But how critical is it for a Big Ten school like Minnesota to have a collective like this in place, especially now that NIL has reshaped the landscape in terms of student-athlete recruitment and retention?
DB: To quote [Minnesota athletic director] Mark Coyle, “In the quickly changing landscape of college athletics, NIL is now essential to the future success of our programs.”
The only permissible way to “recruit” with NIL is to ensure that as many of your current student-athletes as possible have the opportunity for NIL activities. This also helps to retain current student-athletes, because they see the opportunities available to them while at the University of Minnesota.
This is not an issue isolated just to football and basketball; the University is already seeing and feeling impacts across almost all sports. And the impacts are going to increase rapidly.
TDG: You were yourself a student-athlete at the University of Minnesota once, so obviously your ties to Minnesota need no explanation. But how did you first become involved in the development of Dinkytown Athletes and why is this so important to you?
DB: My time at the University as a student-athlete is long over. But I love being a fan now and I want to make a beneficial impact. I was asked to be involved by Luke Buer, who owns the Gopher Gridiron Radio podcast, which I’m involved with.
I think this is important to me because for what feels like the first time in my life we aren’t waiting until our competitors have figured this out. We fans have an opportunity to actually be leaders in this space and not have to play catch up. But we have to act now.