When Florida’s NIL legislation passed into law July 1, south Florida businessman and avid Miami Hurricanes fan Dan Lambert leaped at the opportunity to help out his boyhood team.
Lambert observed the now bustling college athletics marketplace, which has facilitated a number of unique and lucrative deals between athletes and businesses. These agreements expanded Lambert’s ambitions from sponsoring a few Miami players to — in his words — “bring back the U.”
“When (NIL) came out, I thought it was great,” Lambert said. “I was going to take a company of mine and sponsor a couple players. But then I thought, man, why not try to do something bigger, reach out to people and get the community rallied behind the team.”
Lambert launched a private marketing company called “Bring Back the U,” which has offered every scholarship player a $600 a month contract to endorse his company, American Top Team, through their respective social media platforms.
The “U” refers to the golden age of Hurricanes football that captured the heart of a young Lambert. Miami secured five national championships between 1983 and 2001 and shattered Orange Bowl attendance records.
Since then, Lambert made his fortune through American Top Team, a nationwide chain of MMA gyms that has produced UFC champions Amanda Nunes, Tyson Woodley and Douglas Lima. Meanwhile, the Miami football team has languished in mediocrity, producing just one 10-win season since 2004.
The spectacle of college and football and his nostalgic childhood memories motivated Lambert to start this initiative.
“There’s just something about college football that you just can’t replicate in the pros,” Lambert said. “I watch college football and it’s do or die — you love your team, you hate the other schools, it’s just the fun of being a college football fan. It (Miami) was a sight to behold and I want to see it back there.”
If all 90 players sign with “Bring Back the U,” Lambert’s investment will reach $540,000 — one of the most lucrative NIL deals to date. Lambert’s green and orange tinted glasses haven’t clouded his business sense, however, as American Top Team has boomed over the last three days.
“I had people with really large companies reach out and say, ‘Man, I wish I could buy that publicity you just got’ — you can’t put a price tag on that,” Lambert said. “People are reaching out and asking where they can buy our gear. We’re getting all kinds of positive feedback.”
Along with his company, Lambert also started a concerted effort to generate support from the local community. He identified community and alumni support as a major driving force behind Miami’s decades of success
Lambert hired former Miami Hurricane and Dolphin Kendrick Norton as the Vice President of Community Outreach and has planned several fundraisers to help local businesses support UM athletes. Norton’s football career was cut short two years ago when an auto accident …
“You can kill two birds with one stone and do two good things at the same time,” Lambert said. “Help out a local business and help out these players.”
College football suffers from a growing divide between the elite teams and the rest of the sport, and Lambert believes that NIL is a great opportunity to level the playing field, especially for an affluent Miami alumni pool.
His advice for entrepreneurs around the country — invest in college athletics.
“I hope other companies look at that and see, ‘Wow, there is a benefit for this,’ ” Lambert said. “This isn’t just trying to support the team, which is a very noble position, but there’s also a benefit to it. It’s good for both sides.”