For more than a year, Chris Bickell has meticulously planned the operation of 412 Alliance. As a prominent supporter of the Panthers, he made a historic $20 million donation to Pitt's football program in 2021, the largest single gift in the athletic department's history.
Despite the launch of the Pitt-driven NIL collective last April, Bickell was determined not to rush into the NIL space. Pay-to-play deals were off the table. Situated in a major city with a rich basketball and football history, Pitt possesses all the necessary ingredients for a successful NIL operation.
However, Bickell wanted to develop a plan that would undoubtedly succeed.
This week, multiple developments have transformed the Panthers into formidable contenders in the NIL marketplace. Collaborating with Pittsburgh-based Jaster Athletes marketing firm, 412 Alliance has established a branding arm called "Oakland Originals," a groundbreaking initiative that provides Pitt athletes with the opportunity to engage in content creation and branding with Jordon Rooney's firm.
Rooney, known for his work with Damar Hamlin and his role as the first brand coach in NCAA history at Duquesne, previously served in a similar capacity with West Virginia's Country Roads Trust.
Currently, Rooney's Jaster team is working closely with Pitt athletes, with a significant focus on the Panthers through three full-time positions. Unlike merely facilitating deals, Alliance 412 and Oakland Originals aim to foster enduring brands that will continue to benefit athletes even after their time at Pitt.
"In the first year, we wanted to establish ourselves and gain a deep understanding of the landscape," Bickell explained in an interview with On3. "We can't solely focus on what's happening elsewhere because our campus and market are unique. We dedicated the past year to figuring it all out, and bringing in Jordan is crucial. Our goal is to provide a platform and service that will generate endless opportunities for these athletes."
Alliance made a resounding statement with its announcement, sharing a video on social media featuring prominent Pitt football and basketball legends such as LeSean McCoy, LeVance Fields, Tyler Palko, DeJuan Blair, Dorin Dickerson, Kenny Pickett, Hugh Green, Rickey Jackson, Nelly Cummings, Jerome Lane, Sam Clancy, and Tony Dorsett. Head coaches Jeff Capel and Pat Narduzzi also played a role in showing their support.
Introducing: Oakland Originals— Oakland Originals (@OklndOriginals) August 8, 2023
The first marketing agency for student-athletes under an NIL collective! 📈
Powered by @Alliance_412, Oakland Originals will be the ultimate platform for Pitt athletes to showcase and elevate their personal brands! 💪🏆 pic.twitter.com/2SuZP7gX8R
Public backing from notable alumni and the administration can make a significant difference in fan donations. As an independent LLC, Alliance 412 offers a range of membership options for students and fans.
Bickell's commitment to NIL at Pitt is further demonstrated through the launch of Oakland Originals. On Thursday, he unveiled the potential for even more opportunities for athletes. Alliance 412 signed a team-wide NIL deal worth seven figures with the 85 scholarship football players of the Panthers.