By Tim Reynolds
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Panthers were seeking a female athlete from Florida Atlantic University to be the next college student they sign to an endorsement deal.
Unable to choose one, they’re making the offer to more than 200 of them.
The NHL team said Wednesday that it will sign any interested and eligible FAU female athlete to a deal under the new rules that allow college players to capitalize on their name, image and likeness for endorsement opportunities.
No other major sports franchise is known to have made such an offer, and it comes after the Panthers became the first pro team to sign a college athlete as an endorser when they struck a deal with Miami quarterback D’Eriq King earlier this summer.
“There are a lot of businesses out there that are doing deals with full teams, but they’re all on the men’s side of things,” Panthers chief strategy officer Sam Doerr said. “And we said, ‘Why not do that on the female side of things?’ We talked about basketball and a couple other sports at FAU, then decided we didn’t want to leave anyone out and said we’d just make the offer to everybody.”
FAU fields women’s teams in basketball, beach volleyball, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, cross-country and track and field, volleyball and spirit — a total of just over 200 athletes. The campus is in Boca Raton, about a 30-minute drive northeast of the arena where the Panthers play.
The FAU athletes will be invited to attend Panthers games and engage with their social media followers, receiving some team merchandise in return. Interested FAU athletes will register with Dreamfield, a company King co-founded, to redeem the Panthers’ offer; Dreamfield has partnered with the team and will manage the logistics that come with the deals.
Doerr said the Panthers have allocated funds in anticipation of all 200 athletes signing.
“We talked about this from Day 1,” Doerr said. “We really, truly believe there is a market out there for female athletes. We’ve got 200 athletes we can work with in different ways and grow the brand. And at the very least, as a community member, we feel really positive about the impact we’ll be able to have with a school right up the road.”
King’s deal with the Panthers includes plans to develop a merchandise collection and his own exclusive concession menu item to be available at all Panthers home games and events for the coming season. The Panthers were the first NHL team to unveil a plan for partnering with college athletes in these now-approved endorsement opportunities.