How UC is preparing for the Bearcats’ impending plunge into the Big 12
CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - UC athletic director John Cunningham and Cincy Reigns founder Brian Fox on Tuesday gathered at Fifth Third Arena with a specific request for Bearcat donors.
With the school officially joining the Big 12 in less than four months, the “Let’s Reign” campaign has made its plea.
Cincy Reigns is a name, image and likeness fundraising collective that helps University of Cincinnati athletes in all sports monetize their personal brands. In return, they promote charitable causes and are expected to make positive contributions to the local community.
“It’s an ambitious ask,” Fox said. “We’re asking for 7,000 people to donate at a $350 level. We’re targeting this campaign to last through our joining of the Big 12 on July 1. We are asking for like-minded fans and donors to get involved by participating in our Let’s Reign Campaign as we ‘Build the Kingdom’ and give UC student-athletes best-in-class NIL opportunities.”
Said Cunningham, “This is what it’s going to take. We’re going to have to decide how we want to be and how we want to compete. Right now it has to be right there with NIL and Cincy Reigns.”
In available monthly increments, $350 over a year is a little over $29. Assuming 7,000 donors followed through, it would raise $2.45 million. In terms of being involved, donors could have special access and privileges.
Cunningham would like UC fans to think along the lines of Green Bay Packers shareholders where over a half-million fans own shares in the team. While the investment is different, the commitment is similar.
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Cunningham has been pleased with donor support as UC has prepared for the Big 12 entry. The $100 million “Day One Ready” campaign has raised over $85 million in commitments. The last three years have been the greatest fundraising years in the history of UC athletics.
“Our fan base recognizes how important it is in terms of resources and now we need them in that NIL space,” Cunningham said. “That’s where the battles are being fought in terms of competitiveness. These are our brand ambassadors. These are our young men and women that are driving our university brand. We saw it when we went to the Cotton Bowl and played in front of 18 million people (College Football National Semifinal).”
A little may go a long way
“This is sustainable only if everybody gives a little bit,” Cunningham said. “Especially at Cincinnati, that’s how we’re going to be successful. Understanding as you sit there and go to games, ‘What can I do a little bit to be a part of this club so we can continue to support our coaches and be successful?’ You don’t have to be the No. 1 school in the country as to how you source NIL, but you have to have table stakes.”
In devising Cincy Reigns, Fox, a corporate lawyer by day, looked at examples from the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee.
“There’s no schools in the Big 12 that I necessarily looked at and thought, ‘That’s a great model!’” Fox said. “Frankly it’s because we’re going to be that in the Big 12.”
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‘First Class’ of endorsement deals announced
Cincy Reigns announced on Tuesday it has signed 14 University of Cincinnati athletes – one from each UC program – to name, image, likeness deals as part of its “First Class” initiative.
Per their deals with Cincy Reigns, the athletes will provide marketing support and make event appearances on behalf of the collective.
- Abby Walker (volleyball)
- Jillian Hayes (women’s basketball)
- Rylee Penn (women’s track and field/cross country)
- Brooke Patterson (women’s golf)
- Camryn Callaghan (women’s lacrosse)
- Ashley Barron (women’s soccer)
- Joleigh Crye (women’s swimming and diving)
- Elizabeth Pendergast (women’s tennis)
- Griffin Hugus (baseball)
- Dontay Corleone (football)
- Ty Gingerich (men’s golf)
- Dan Skillings Jr. (men’s basketball)
- Hunter Gubeno (men’s swimming and diving)
- Korbin Spencer (men’s track and field/cross country)
“We’re going to do it as good as anybody in the country using NIL to retain student-athletes and making sure we’re giving them all sorts of opportunities in that space,” Cunningham said.
Cincy Reigns is a third-party operating as both a non-profit corporation and limited liability company that works closely with UC compliance, licensing, legal and sports marketing professionals to ensure NCAA and UC compliance with name, image, likeness policies and guidelines.
Bearcats’ supporters can donate to the Let’s Reign Campaign at cincyreigns.org.
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