‘Elevating the game’: What inspired Built Brands owner Nick Greer to join forces with BYU football
A year removed from his landmark NIL deal with the Cougars football program, Greer still pulls for the underdog — the walk-on
Looking back, Nick Greer’s relationship with BYU got off to an uneasy start.
After multiple attempts (four to be exact) to gain admission to the university of his dreams, the future Built Brands owner and CEO finally achieved what he wanted: an acceptance letter from Brigham Young University. Such dogged determination and resiliency helped pave the way to Greer’s successful entrepreneurial career, one that came full circle on a warm August day last summer in Provo when his health and energy foods company entered into a landmark name, image and likeness (NIL) deal with the BYU football program.
Growing up, Greer’s unflappable ambition to succeed amid adversity often led him to pull for the underdog, those who faced an uphill battle but were still willing to climb. As such, when it came time to formulate an NIL agreement with BYU football, Greer, 45, and Built Brands sought to offer something for those in the program who needed help the most, those who could really benefit from this new partnership — the walk-on, but more on that later.
A year of change
As everyone knows, college sports experienced mammoth changes during the past 12 months, the effects of which will be felt throughout the NCAA landscape for years to come. Among the changes, big dogs Texas, Oklahoma, USC and UCLA ditched their longtime conferences and partners in favor of more glamorous affiliations that could afford them greater access to the College Football Playoff and, of course, more money.
The big-branded Longhorns and Sooners made a boom in July 2021 when they fled for the greener pastures of the SEC, while this summer, universities in the Pac-12 became collateral damage when the Big Ten extended its borders from the northeast coast to beachfront property in Los Angeles with the addition of USC and UCLA.
Still, when it comes to significant alterations to the college sports ecosystem, it could be argued the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2021 to allow student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness was the most monumental. The court’s ruling opened the floodgates to scores of previously unpaid college athletes to cash in on their name, image and likeness, with recruits often going to the highest bidder.
As the new NIL changes began permeating college sports, schools across the nation quickly jumped aboard, each seeking ways to capitalize on the new normal. As expected, the pursuit of high-profile talent would get expensive.
What about the little guy?
When Greer put Built Brands and BYU football on center stage of the neo-college-athletics world, it did something unpredictable; something different, and BYU pounced on the opportunity to partner with Greer’s company. Doing so gave each of the athletes an opportunity at compensation, most notably the walk-ons, providing the funds necessary to pay school fees so the athletes could better focus their time and energy on football.
“It’s raising everyone’s game,” Greer said of the impact Built Brands’ NIL deal has had on BYU football. “Now that you’ve got 36 (walk-ons) being taken care of in ways they’ve never been taken care of, it elevates their game. No matter what team, what sport, what company you work with, if you have others around you elevating their game, you naturally will elevate your game. That’s key. So it absolutely is elevating the game and the players and the level of play that BYU football is playing and will play at. I think it gives them more confidence.”
Greer and Built Brands had been preparing for their NIL moment long in advance.
“We were talking here for months upon months beforehand of how do we do something that’s disruptive, that’s different, that really is unique,” he said. “We’re all about those underdogs. We’re all about the walk-ons — the walk-ons of life. … And then when you hear about the walk-ons at BYU and the need there, it’s like, ‘Boom, we hit it. All right, let’s go after that.’ That’s what we’re going to do.”
Greer’s attitude and enthusiasm are contagious.
“He’s a bigger-than-life human being,” said Gary Veron, BYU associate athletic director for student-athlete experience. “He’s such a philanthropy-minded individual; so great; so generous.”
In typical underdog-loving Greer fashion, he focused on providing opportunities for those who worked just as hard as everyone else but who didn’t reap the same benefits, and he was not alone.
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake wanted each one of his players to benefit from their newfound financial opportunities, as well.
“From the beginning of the NIL discussion, my hope was that changes to NCAA rules and regulations would provide a pathway forward for all players to benefit more fully from their name, image and likeness, especially walk-ons, who sacrifice so much to make our program great,” Sitake said last year in a BYU press release. “When Nick Greer called to tell me that Built was committed to entering into NIL deals, which would pay our walk-ons enough money to cover their tuition for the full academic year, I could not hold back my emotions.”
“Kalani is all about those boys,” Greer said. “He’s all about those walk-ons and those underdogs and the unknowns. He sees potential in them. He sees great strengths in them. He wants to make sure that they’re actually built up and maximize their talents.”
Greer’s NIL partnership helps Sitake focus on building up his players and maximizing their talents, knowing that they all are being taken care of by Built Brands.
NIL partnership benefits players
Built Brands’ NIL deal with BYU football players fulfilled Greer’s desire to do something disruptive, different and unique, that’s for sure. The partnership was a seismic development in a landscape that had endured an eruption of changes.
While most businesses and schools began focusing on high-profile athletes, Built Brands focused on unsung heroes.
“Those that have been walk-ons or blue-collar guys — understand the grind and how much this means to people who maybe are forgotten about or are left out of the equation or aren’t kind of the high-profile individuals,” Veron said. “So for those players to be embraced, and honored this way, was magnificent.”
“We did whatever we had to do to make it work (financially),” BYU walk-on Talmage Gunther said during a press conference last year following the announcement. “Honestly, for me, I am happy to put in the time at work so I can pay for it, because I love being here.”
But he could not express enough how grateful he was for the NIL deal, knowing full well the burden it would ease for him and his wife.
“It was like, ‘Oh, thank heavens. My wife is going to be so happy. She doesn’t have to stress as much about the financial side.’”
Gunther wasn’t alone.
“About a third of our team are married,” Veron said. “So naturally, any kind of financial support is going to help alleviate some of the frustration and fears surrounding money and income.”
Greer hopes that Built Brands’ NIL deal will have a lasting impact on these players, causing them to pay it forward.
“These are young men who are going to go out in the world and change lives,” he said. “Most of them will not play professional football. But what they will play is the game of life and what they will play is impacting the lives of others. If you can inspire them to do that, then how much better of a world is this going to be?”
NIL partnership benefits Built Brands
The partnership between BYU and Built Brands has not only made a positive impact on the lives of many BYU football players, but has helped the company as well. Greer has seen his business benefit from NIL in a variety of ways, even though that was not his primary reason for brokering the deal.
“Promoting the brand was the follower, not the leader,” Greer said. “The leader was just trying to do what’s right. And you know, you put yourself in situations to do what’s right and it’s amazing the type of results that come from it.”
Even so, Greer admits that Built Brands has seen an uptick in attention since partnering with BYU’s football players. Many Cougars fans love supporting the company since it joined forces with their team.
“As far as exposure was concerned, it was fantastic,” Greer said. “As far as brand notoriety, it was great. I think most importantly, it showed people that we’re loyal. … I think those BYU fans, they create that affinity toward our brand. That emotional attachment to our brand because of how we’re promoting and helping and assisting a brand that they love: and that’s BYU football.”
“People still talk about it to this day,” Veron said. “When I go to conferences or talk to my colleagues across the country (they ask me about it). It’s one of the two or three top stories of year one of NIL.”
Greer is appreciative for what the NIL partnership has done for him and Built Brands.
“Brand recognition definitely was accelerated because of it and that’s awesome. That’s something that followed the fact of what we did, and we’re grateful for that opportunity and for that exposure.”
BYU football and Built Brands teamed together, becoming interwoven in a good cause that has been mutually beneficial. When inevitable changes seemed predictably slanted in favor of the usual winners, the two worked out something unpredictable.
Something that favored the oft-forgotten.