OXFORD — Ole Miss’ growing NIL collective, in partnerships with The Brandr Group and Wheels Up, announced two new benefits for its athletes on Wednesday.
The Grove Collective was founded in April of 2022 and serves as the lead Ole Miss effort in the evolving college athletics landscape of name, image and likeness.
It provides compensation opportunities and other benefits for Ole Miss athletes who represent it.
In partnering with The Brandr Group and Wheels Up, Grove Collective athletes will be able to support Feeding America’s effort to combat food insecurity and will also receive help in allowing their family and loved ones to travel to Ole Miss for games.
The Brandr Group, through its marketing, helps schools maximize the NIL initiatives of their athletes.
Wheels Up is a private flying company that charges hourly rates for personalized air travel experiences.
Through the “Meals Up” program Ole Miss athletes will benefit Feeding America in North Mississippi. The athletes will be compensated through this NIL opportunity.
The Meals Up program has raised funding for over 90 million meals for Feeding America to date.
Athletes Myah Taylor (women’s basketball), Sasha Ratlif (volleyball), Jaxson Dart (football), Quinshon Judkins (football), Hunter Elliott (baseball), TJ McCants (baseball) and Matthew Murrell (basketball) have been designated by The Grove Collective to work on behalf of Meals Up.
Wheels Up chairman and CEO Kenny Dichter said the partnership will also help create memories for athletes as Wheels Up helps family members attend games.
“This is an exciting and transformative partnership that will create opportunities for athletes’ parents and family members to attend games and see their loved ones in person through Wheels Up’s commercial airline partner. More so, we’re honored to be the first Collective to partner with Wheels Up in this historic deal.” said Walker Jones, Executive Director of The Grove Collective.
“With the charitable impact and awareness these athletes can bring to food insecurity through Feeding America, the compensation the athletes receive, and providing Ole Miss student athletes with the benefit of commercial air travel for their loved ones, this is NIL at its best.”
The Wheels Up deal is the first co-branded effort between The Grove Collective and The Brandr Group.
NIL regulations require athletes to fulfill some sort of contractural obligations to receive benefits. That’s most often done through the sale of athletes’ publicity rights, but collectives engage with many non-profit groups as well.
Feeding America food banks are in every county in the country. The group’s programs help provide meals for children, seniors, families and those impacted by natural disasters.
NIL went into effect on July 1, 2021.
It quickly became a focal point for many athletes, especially football, in recruiting as coaches began to field questions about what type of opportunities recruits could expect.
It’s also become a focal point for how coaches consider new opportunities themselves.
“Watch how coaches take jobs now,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin told Sports Illustrated last May. “Before, it was based on facilities or whatever. If the coach is smart the first question should be what? Tell me about your collective. The first question should be, ‘What is your NIL structure?’”
That was long before Kiffin would become a candidate for the Auburn job in November.
Jones announced in late November that The Grove Collective had raised more than $10 million, a figure that included cash that was on hand not long-term pledged donations.
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