Connecting Sports Fans with Athletes for the Social Good
Nick Tooker, BA Economics, Sports Management Minor ’11
Business Development Director, Win-Win
By Sue Kern-Fleischer
Nick Tooker was a pretty good athlete in high school. He competed in track and field state championships and played on the varsity basketball team. While he knew he wanted to pursue a career in sports management, he had no idea that within six years of graduating college, he would be connecting sports fans with professional athletes and influencers to benefit charities.
As business development director for Win-Win—which promotes “Social Games for Social Good”—Tooker handles all corporate relationships for the web-based, sports gamification company. Founded in 2016 by former National Football League linebacker Mike Brown, Win-Win facilitates week-long “game tournaments” for fans hosted by their favorite professional athletes. Fans are prompted to donate to the charity of the athlete’s choice, and then compete for unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences with the athlete host.
Tooker was Brown’s first hire after the two met at a conference in New York City, where Brown raised just under $1 million in a single afternoon from angel investors.
“I had been working for Excel Sports Management in New York and happened to be there to sync up with brand folks,” Tooker said. “I was so impressed with Mike and the potential to make a real philanthropic impact that I approached him and gave him my card. The next week we chatted in San Francisco and the rest is history.”
While Tooker had enjoyed his five-year run with Excel, he was intrigued by the chance to join a startup that provided meaningful work and an opportunity to bridge the gap between sports and technology. With his help, Win-Win launched its first beta season in football and basketball in September 2016. Today, the company works with more than 60 athletes across the NFL and National Basketball Association, including a number of NFL Pro Bowlers and NBA All-Stars.
“For athletes, it’s a low-effort, innovative tool allowing them to raise money for causes they care about. All we ask of them is to promote their tournaments on their social channels and be available for a few hours for the fan experience,” Tooker said. “What we’ve really done is gamified the charitable giving process. Fans engage in predication games, battle brackets and other simplified game tournaments, not only for the chance to win an experience money can’t buy, but also because proceeds go to a meaningful charity. To make this model sustainable, we work with a ton of brands so that everyone wins something. So, if you came in last place, you might win $10 off your next Uber ride.”
In its beta season, Win-Win raised more than $100,000 for more than 10 charities. The largest tournament involved Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. More than 500 fans participated and raised more than $42,000 for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to help Baton Rouge flood victims. Three winners then flew on a private jet with Peterson on the Cardinals’ bye week to attend the Louisiana State University versus Alabama football game in November 2016.
Tooker credits the Eller College with giving him the entrepreneurial mindset and skills to succeed in his career. A former Scottsdale resident, he was one of the first students enrolled in Eller’s sports management program. He graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in economics and a minor in sports management.
“I’ve always been passionate about the intersection between sports and business, and I’m grateful to Eller for the valuable education I received there,” he said. “The class that stood out the most and really shaped how I think about the sports business was taught by Fred Wagenhals, former president and CEO of Action Performance. Fred and I have stayed in touch and he’s been a great resource.”
Tooker continues to stay in close contact with Eller staff and alumni, and he will be making plans to visit the campus in the fall as a guest lecturer for sports management and entrepreneurship classes.
Header photo of football fans courtesy Wikipedia Commons.