In hopes of enhancing the opportunity for student-athletes to self-promote and connect with their fans, the Fairfield University athletics department recently partnered with YOKE. This modernized platform specifically engages sporting fans and allows collegiate athletes to upload digital content for subscribed members to view.
The decision for the University to work with YOKE was finalized on Jan. 19 as both the Fairfield athletics department made it publicly official by publishing a press release on FairfieldStags.com while YOKE shared on their Twitter account: “We’re excited to announce our first official Division 1 department-wide partnership with Fairfield University.”
The athletics department at Fairfield found that YOKE “provide[s] a platform for all of our student-athletes to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL),” shared Zach Dayton, Deputy Athletics Director. He continued, “College athletics departments across the country are investing in platforms similar to YOKE based on their state and institutional NIL guidelines in support of their student-athletes.”
Prior to the National Collegiate Athletics Association Interim NIL Policy, student-athletes were restricted from participating in any deals that promoted their likeness while they were on scholarship. Once the policy was passed in July of 2021, however, student-athletes began partnering with businesses for profits–YOKE being one of them.
Through the Fairfield NIL club, athletes offer fans access to online chat rooms, digital events and other exclusive athlete content to members who pay a minimum commitment fee of $5 per month. There is no maximum amount for donation.
These monthly payments will generate revenue for the Fairfield NIL Club, which will then be equally distributed through a shared process amongst the participating student-athletes. At the end of every month, each player will receive a split check.
“Content is created directly by the student-athletes [and] fans can request more content from student-athletes once they become subscribers,” Dayton said. He also advised that while the Fairfield NIL social platforms post some videos, more content can be found by using the app.
Currently, only Fairfield’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams are active on the platform, as they are the only sports in season. In the past few weeks, they have published interviews and other exclusive content for Stag fans to view.
Men’s Basketball player Supreme Cook ‘24 is one of the many players producing content for the site. “I think it’s a great platform for athletes to connect with fans and other people who enjoy coming to the games,” he shared.
“We usually don’t get to talk to [our fans] after the game, so this is a great way for us to just speak with them and connect with them.”
Other athletes, such as Women’s Golf team member, Lucy Fowler ‘25, have heard about the platform as well. Up to this point, she hasn’t received too many details about it.
“Our coach hasn’t said much, it’s more of what I’ve seen or heard from other athletes at Fairfield,” Fowler stated. Nevertheless, she remains excited about the start of the golf season and collaboration with YOKE where she would “get to endorse [herself] and show people [her] journey in athletics.”
Athletes on the platform are not constricted to follow a schedule in terms of posting. In fact, there was no contract involved when they entered the partnership with YOKE. While his team met with the creators of YOKE, Cook explains that athletes were given the flexibility of posting of their own free will.
“We don’t have to follow a schedule or have to post […] but if you want to bring in more viewers or people to the app, promoting it yourself or having other people promote it–such as the players–is a really helpful way to do that,” Cook shared.
Since the teams are actively collecting membership fees from fans subscribed to the platform, Cook expresses that there is an incentive for his team to post: “The more we put in, the more we get out.”
As for Stag fans, the partnership is still slowly gaining buzz. Jackie Campbell, a junior basketball-season ticket holder, explained how she hadn’t heard of the platform before. Nevertheless, she believed “that it’s exciting that fans might have more ways to get involved” and it could be “really interesting for those in Sports Marketing or Management.”
Junior Emma Falkowski also shared that she was unfamiliar with YOKE, but is something that she would consider subscribing to. “I feel like that is an amazing tool and would be really beneficial to staying up to date with athletics on campus,” Falkowski stated.
So far, the partnership has been advertised at men’s and women’s basketball games and will continue to advertise at a variety of athletic events throughout the spring when more sports begin their respective seasons.
“Fairfield Athletics is just beginning NIL initiatives like our partnership with YOKE,” Dayton said. “We plan to train all of our student-athletes on the use of the platform very soon, [and] we will continue to advertise the opportunity to be a subscriber to our fan base.”