Dam Nation Collective says ‘we’re swinging for the fences’ to fuel Oregon State’s NIL game

Published: Nov. 10, 2022

By Nick Daschel | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Oregon State is about to turbo-charge name, image and likeness opportunities for its athletes.

A former OSU athletics administrator and Nike executive have co-founded Dam Nation Collective, which will provide NIL opportunities for all Beavers athletes. Dam Nation is partnering with Learfield, a sports marketing firm that has relationships with hundreds of businesses nationally, and a deep roster of former OSU athletes.

Dam Nation refers to itself as the “preferred collective” of Oregon State athletics, calling it a “one-stop shop for all OSU student athletes and teams to create, optimize and promote their brand and their (NIL) opportunities.”

It is the relationship with Learfield, which represents Oregon State’s multimedia rights, that allows Dam Nation to call itself the school’s preferred collective.

Dam Nation Collective works independently from Oregon State. It is a clearinghouse that reaches out to businesses and boosters to provide sponsorships and branding opportunities for athletes. Most Power 5 schools have at least one NIL collective.

Dam Nation is co-founded by Kyle Bjornstad, a former OSU associate athletic director and chief of staff, and Dick Oldfield, a former Nike executive who worked in the athletic shoe industry for nearly four decades.

Among former Oregon State athletes Dam Nation calls “ambassadors” are Steven Jackson, Gary Payton II, Ryan Nall, Mikayla Pivec and Taylor Ricci.

The Learfield partnership provides significant muscle to find corporate branding and sponsorship connections. Learfield represents multimedia rights for hundreds of college athletic programs and conferences nationally.

“That gives us a big reach for marketing, in venues, to be able to use their (intellectual property) marks,” Bjornstad said.

Most prominent for Dam Nation is Learfield’s Oregon State corporate partnerships.

“These are businesses that are already identified as Oregon State partners,” Bjornstad said. “Now, all of a sudden, we’re at the table with them.”

Oldfield said there are “potential big investors that we can’t say by name that are interested in getting on board.” Bjornstad and Oldfield declined to say how much money is behind Dam Nation.

“We are having very significant conversations with investors,” Bjornstad said. “I hesitate to put a dollar amount on that. But we’re going after it. We’re swinging for the fences. We’re going to do this, and do it right.”

Bjornstad and Oldfield stress that Dam Nation isn’t there to provide a bag of money to a transfer or five-star prospect looking for an immediate handout. But they’ll be at the forefront for prospective Oregon State athletes wanting to know what sponsorship and branding opportunities exist should they someday become a Beaver.

Bjornstad and Oldfield, who have known each other for years working on projects in their former jobs, joined forces earlier this year. They saw NIL as a glaring need at Oregon State.

“Oregon State has to be in this space, or it’s going to get left behind,” Bjornstad said.

The services they provide to OSU athletes include branding and promotional opportunities, educational components that can help them following their athletic careers, and financial and tax education.

“We think we can be a little different by making sure that it’s not just a quick money grab, but actually a plan for their future beyond Oregon State,” Oldfield said.

While they will present promotional and branding deals to OSU athletes, their goal is to meet with interested athletes to learn their interests and passions, including philanthropic. From there, Dam Nation looks to connect athletes with businesses and investors that can help grow their brand.

The goal isn’t just the four or five years of college, but to open doors for years beyond school.

“You want to create something that’s a deeper story, and longer lasting,” Oldfield said.