Like so many stories, the roots of what eventually became a foray into building a nonfungible token for Nebraska junior wide receiver Trey Palmer can be traced back, in a way, to professional wrestling.
Peter Morris, Nelnet Marketing’s art director, wasn’t necessarily thinking about Palmer, the Huskers, the changing name, image and likeness landscape or anything of the sort when he developed a just-for-fun set of drawings on his own.
“I was trying out some new art tools and then found, just trying to define a technique, and through that, I drew a series of a lot of professional wrestlers and printed up a book of them that I gave away to friends for Christmas just as a fun little project,” he told the Journal Star recently.
One of those books made it to Gerrod Lambrecht, the president of Athlete Branding & Marketing, an NIL representation company in Lincoln. Lambrecht was talking with Colby Angst, then a marketing professional with Redthread, around the same time about other projects.
“I was doing some marketing projects with Gerrod over at ABM and we just started chatting a little bit about crypto,” Angst said. “What we were talking about is how do we bring new opportunities to athletes so they can benefit off of their name, image and likeness but also give a benefit to the fan base as well? How can we create new interactions between fans and the players, and we started talking about NFTs and crypto and thought it was a good idea to get started as quickly as we could on it.”
Morris and Angst knew each other and had discussed NFTs and crypto over the years. They brought in Ben Swift, too, to help navigate the technological challenges associated with developing NFTs on their own and got to work.
OFFICIALLY introducing the Husker x Trey Palmer NFT. LIMITED quantities of these NFTs will be available for purchase beginning Saturday, April 9th at 12 PM CST until Sunday, April 17th at midnight CST. #PoweredByABM #HuskerNFT #TreyPalmerNFThttps://t.co/5I9uggSxM6 pic.twitter.com/AV3Ew2Dqsg
— Trey Palmer (@treythekiid3) April 8, 2022
“There’s a looming cloud over (NFTs),” Morris said. “Is it a scam? What’s the deal? How do we get involved with this market in a way that’s not going to come off scammy and in a way that’s authentic and connects with our audience in a way that makes sense for us and meets them where they are?”
They decided to start with Palmer, the LSU transfer, as a first subject.
“We had some requests with a photographer to get us some different visuals, and in that request, we wanted to make sure we could get some of his personality,” said Morris, who did the artwork. “If he’s stoic, I want to see what that looks like and we can represent that dramatically through the illustration. Or if he’s got energy and he’s fun and exciting, let’s see what that looks like. So we got several different images to work from there, picked some that I thought were great representations of him and also wanted to find a couple of the ones we’ve got with the sunglasses on.”
Added Angst, “We were really excited to work with Trey. We thought he was an exciting, enigmatic person and he’d be the perfect person to launch this with. It’s been a lot of fun creating the artwork, reviewing what’s important to him and how he wants to apply himself to this market.”
The auctioning of different levels of the NFT began last week, and Palmer receives 80% of the proceeds directly. In addition to 250 signed cards being given out to kids, there are other levels available for sale that come with the digital artwork and a hard copy. The top, “platinum” offering, of which two are available, come with those plus, according to the website, “an exclusive one-hour chalk talk with Trey. Unprecedented access with a one-on-one conversation to ask questions and go over the Xs and Os.”
The team that put together Palmer’s NFT says it can scale some and work with other Husker athletes, though they also don’t want any of them to feel mass-produced.
“What’s the format? Visually what makes sense? And then can we develop kind of a house style that we can then apply to other athletes?” Morris said. “The other athletes are drawn and it’s not like we’re just putting a Photoshop filter on it. It’s all hand-done, but we do need to find a format where, if we do 20 players, we can easily apply it then to a certain color palette or a certain visual style so it has — it’s kind of like trading cards. You have different trading cards that have kind of a style to them, a house style, because you’ve got people that like to collect things, and if you have a bunch of disparate-looking images, it might be less attractive to some people.”
Said Angst, “We could go out and find a company that’s productized this and made maybe a bit of an assembly line, but that doesn’t really stay true to who these Nebraska players are, what they want to create and really what the identity of the team and the people around them. We wanted to create it that way.
“We’d rather create it ourselves than sell it off to somebody else. We’re all superproud of being able to do this here locally.”
Photos: All of the sights from Nebraska football’s Red-White Spring Game