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Two NIL firsts for Gophers athletics

Gophers soccer’s NIL deal and Dinkytown Athletes’ collaboration with Grey Duck Spirits are the first team-wide deal and beverage deal for UMN sports.
Image by Olivia Puttin (courtesy)
Gophers soccer players celebrate a goal against Illinois on Oct. 8, 2023.

Gophers athletics has seen two firsts in the name, image and likeness (NIL) era after the soccer team signed the school’s first team-wide NIL deal and Grey Duck Spirits and Dinkytown Athletes produced its first beverage deal.

Gophers soccer’s deal is with Kentucky-based Isaacs & Isaacs Personal Injury Lawyers and will include branded content and merchandise.

Grey Duck Spirits is producing Duck Duck Beer, their first beer. Some proceeds from the beer, as well as Dinkytown Athletes-branded seltzer packs and vodka, will go back to the NIL collective.

Soccer & Isaacs & Isaacs

The Isaacs name may be familiar to fans of Minnesota soccer — Gophers goalie Alex Isaacs is the daughter of Isaacs & Isaacs founder Daryl “The Hammer” Isaacs.

“My dad was very interested in being a part of the program more,” Isaacs said. “He saw it as an opportunity for the girls who haven’t had NIL deals to start making those deals, having those conversations and seeing what it means to use your name, image and likeness to get paid.”

This is the first team-wide NIL deal at the University of Minnesota. While currently unique, it is indicative of a broader swell in support for Minnesota athletics, women’s sports and soccer, according to Gophers head coach Erin Chastain.

“I think there’s more visibility probably for all the sports at Minnesota,” Chastain said. “I think in terms of soccer in general in Minnesota, with Minnesota United and the Aurora, it’s kind of exploding on a state scale, but also on a national scale.”

Senior Associate Athletic Director for NIL/Policy and Risk Management Jeremiah Carter echoed Chastain’s thoughts on the national implications of the deal.

“I’m super excited for our soccer student-athletes to get this opportunity and get this chance to increase their visibility not just in the Twin Cities but nationally as well,” Carter said.

Gophers soccer fans can look forward to sweatshirts and hoodies with the players’ faces on them, according to Isaacs. Beyond licensing their NIL rights for merchandise, the players will also promote cross-branded content via social media.

While the opportunity to make money and promote their brand is exciting, the deal means a lot more than that to the players.

“For us it’s a lot of recognition for our team, especially being like a women’s team,” Isaacs said. “I’m really, really grateful that [my dad] wanted to do this not just for me, but for the team as a whole. My dad really loves everybody on the team. I love everybody on the team. I just am very grateful that he wanted to take time out of his own day and his own schedule to promote us.”

Dinkytown Athletes & Grey Duck Spirits

Dinkytown Athletes were already looking for a beverage partner when they got a call from Grey Duck Spirits, according to Dinkytown Athletes President and Co-Founder Derek Burns.

“It was a home run for us,” Burns said. “We were able to find a partner that has beer, seltzer and spirits in one partner, so that’s more efficient for us. Then the second big thing was distribution, and the third was great product.”

Passive income in the form of beverage revenue is an important part of Dinkytown Athletes’ strategy, according to Burns. In addition to business endorsements, memberships and booster contributions, passive income as a fourth stream of revenue is the next step in expanding the collective, Burns said.

In addition to expanding their streams of revenue, Dinkytown Athletes is also expanding to new sports, according to Burns. Beyond the new deal with soccer, Burns said they are looking to work with the softball team soon.

Duck Duck Beer is a light lager contract brewed by Surly Brewing Co., according to Burns. Alongside the beer created for the NIL collective are new seltzer “fan packs” featuring a variety of flavors and vodka bottles with Dinkytown Athletes tags. Twenty percent of beer and seltzer sales and 25% of vodka sales will go back to Dinkytown Athletes.

Revenue from sales will be distributed to Gophers sports programs based on which programs are most supported by Dinkytown Athletes members, Burns said.

Duck Duck Beer is available in liquor stores around the University campus, according to Burns.

“We could not have asked for a better response on our beverage launch,” Burns said.

It will be available in liquor stores throughout the state, Burns said, and if a store doesn’t yet carry it, they can easily acquire it from Grey Duck’s distributor if asked.

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