Member Spotlight – TJ Ciro, Opendorse

Tell us a little bit about Opendorse. What do they do and what is your role in this young exciting company?

Opendorse is an athlete marketing platform headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska. For the last 10 years we have built technology for the athlete endorsement industry making it easy for fans, brands and donors to support their favorite pro and student-athletes. Today over 80,000 athletes have Opendorse in their pocket. Think of us almost like Fanatics, but instead of purchasing your favorite team’s merchandise, you can directly pitch an athlete for a social media campaign, video shoutout, autograph, appearance, etc.
I head up our Strategic Partnerships group and work with Olympic governing bodies (Team USA), pro teams and leagues, players’ associations, brands, agencies, colleges & tech partners. My goal is to increase the enterprise value of Opendorse by either signing a big brand who will spend a lot of money on athletes or a tech partner who can help us scale our efforts to help more athletes.


What has been the most rewarding aspect of working with student athletes and can you provide an example of one of your most satisfying NIL (Name Image & Likeness) deals?

We have facilitated tens of thousands of deals for athletes, but one of my favorite stories involves a student-athlete named Gloria Mutiri. Gloria is a volleyball player at the University of Oregon who has received a few deals through our platform. I was on their campus a few months ago and had the opportunity to sit down with her and ask her how NIL has impacted her life and her story had a big impact on me.
Gloria had a rough upbringing and at one point was homeless living out of a car with her sisters. NIL has given her the ability to purchase her first car and there are lots of stories like this across the country that the media doesn’t focus on when discussing this topic. Gloria’s story is a big reason why we do what we do.


Your industry is in relatively new territory. From your experience, what type of advice would you give a student athlete looking to ink a NIL deal and what type of advice would you give a young professional trying to get their toes wet in sports management?

Build up your social media following. That is the number one factor brands are looking at when looking for athletes to execute social media campaigns – and social posts are 90% of all NIL transactions. It takes work, but use your platform as a student-athlete to build an audience.
Getting into sports can be difficult as there are a lot of people trying to break in and the pay isn’t always the greatest early in your career. My advice to young people is to fight for internships as early as you can while in college. Get experience and build your network as quickly as possible because when it’s time to hire for roles, people typically turn to internal candidates who have some experience vs. an external candidate without. There will be a lot of rejection early on, but if it’s what you really want to do, you’ll need to fight through that. I started from scratch and took my lumps early, but fought to figure it out and worked to build a name for myself as I’ve known my whole life this was the industry I wanted to work in.


So, you are one of the newest members at The Station. You share an office with your super cool wife Melissa. Give us a little background on how you guys met, what she does for a living, and what brought you both to Chatham?

She IS super cool! She leads private equity and alternative investments for the Forbes Family Trust – a family office based in NY, Philly & West Palm Beach. She’s obviously way smarter than me and is an incredible mom to our two daughters (3 and 4).
She’s from Philly and we met when I was working for the Eagles. She got stood up on a double date and her cousin didn’t want to go alone with her date so she wound up still going out. I had some liquid courage in me, said hello and the rest is history. We lived in NYC for 7 years and moved to Chatham about a year and a half ago. We love it and are excited to raise our girls here.


Last and most important question. What is your favorite sport to play/watch and who do you root for on Saturdays or Sundays (or any day for that matter!)?

My favorite sport to play is volleyball as I used to travel the country playing in tournaments and played in college, but I’m too old for that now! With the weather getting nicer, I am getting the itch to find a basket and shoot some hoops though.
I love watching Maryland college basketball as well as the Yankees and Giants. If you ask Melissa, she’ll probably tell you I like watching whatever game is on. I tell her it’s for work =)


TJ Ciro