As college football season kicks off this weekend, stadiums will be cheering, beer will be flowing, and data will be extracted. College football has dabbled in the data collection space for the last couple years, but not until recently has a major player actually put a stake in the ground. And this stake proudly flies a Swoosh atop it.
Michigan and Nike came to one of the largest apparel agreements in history this year, and in it Nike has procured the rights to Michigan’s “Activity-Based Information.” In a collegiate space already littered with legal issues surrounding player likeness, unionization, under-age rights, and concussions, everyone has kept data rights on the sidelines until now. This data & tech ecosystem is filled with some of sports smartest and most innovative people, thrilled to finally get their chance to play.
People should not question whether this data exchange is good or bad, but be happy with the precedent it sets. In the small community of data analysts, collectors, and warehousers, this is very exciting news. There is finally something to reference, to work from, to build off of. And for that both sides should be congratulated. While the verbiage “Activity-Based Information” could use some clarification in the future, Nike has cast a net wide enough to capture something that they obviously know will be valuable in the near future (similar to the move Disney made in the digital space with their acquisition of Maker Studios- which has yet to pay off, but many believe will).
What will this deal mean for sports? No one really knows, but its significant. The best analog for this deal is the original sports TV deals of the 1960’s. No one knew the future value or impact, but it was important and got the ball moving. Whether this deal propels Michigan to new heights similar to the original NBC & Notre Dame TV agreement, or if UM made a mistake and signed away valuable future rights like the infamous St. Louis Spirit NBA broadcast deal, only time will tell. Regardless, the impact of this agreement will echo long after Saturday’s final whistle.