The Players Trunk: From Shark Tank to a Stadium Near You

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Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

What is The Players Trunk?

With the NCAA loosening its stance on name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals, many athletes have been able to capitalize and market themselves to fans.  We’ve seen players work with car dealerships, fast food chains and even an HVAC company.  But one brand has been changing the way we think about collegiate memorabilia.

The Players Trunk is a multifaceted platform that connects collectors and athletes for a unique buying experience.  The brand was founded in 2020 by Austin Pomerantz, Hunter Pomerantz, Jason Lansing, Charles Matthews, and Zavier Simpson. Players are able to sell their game-worn gear, chat with fans through personalized videos, and sign autographed trading cards.  There’s no shortage of big names either; the group has landed deals with Georgia QB Stetson Bennett and Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy.  After tremendous growth and an appearance on Shark Tank, TPT shows no signs of slowing down.

Q&A With Cofounder of The Players Trunk, Austin Pomerantz

austin pomerantz
Newsday LLC / Contributor

Last week, we had the chance to talk with cofounder Austin Pomerantz.  A former team manager, Pomerantz spent years working alongside student-athletes on the Michigan basketball team.  By building connections with players and learning the collegiate landscape, he and the other founders were able to find creative ways for athletes to grow their image. Here’s everything Pomerantz had to say about the past, present and future of The Players Trunk:

the Players Trunk cards
The Players Trunk

What was the vision behind The Players Trunk when you all founded it?

AP: The Players Trunk was founded originally by helping friends. Hunter, Jason, and I were all student-managers at our respective schools: Syracuse and Michigan. As student managers, you are with the team on a daily basis, and we formed close relationships with Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson specifically. Once they graduated, they were looking for a way to sell their excess gear and we helped them do it via Instagram and Twitter. It was a very tedious process since a lot of the buyers just wanted to interact with Charles and Zavier, but it gained traction. Once COVID came around, it put a pause on all of our schedules, and we weren’t sure what the internship or job market would look like. That’s when we realized the time was now and formed the company.

Explain the process of curating a trunk for fans.

AP: The athlete reaches out to us with a bunch of gear and takes a video of what they have. From there, they box everything up and send it to our facility. After that, we take care of everything from photoing the items, listing them on the site, and handling all shipping/fulfillment. We understand how busy the athletes are, so we try and take the hassle out of it for them.

The brand has two athlete-founders, Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson.  How important is it for TPT to remain connected with athletes and keep that line of communication open?

AP: It’s extremely important. We have a lot of sweat equity already invested with players, their families, and agents. There are so many people trying to get into this market now. It gives us a leg up that people know we have been in business for two years and have a great reputation.

michigan state
The Players Trunk

Talk about expanding the brand into trading cards and what that has been like for TPT.

AP: It was a natural product extension for us since we were already doing some other signed items such as 8 x 10 photos and basketballs/footballs. As a kid, I had binders and binders full of sports cards so I thought it would be really cool to help college athletes create their “own rookie card.” Since releasing them, we have only heard positive things from fans, players, and agents.

Tell us your favorite accomplishment with The Players Trunk so far.

AP: Being on Shark Tank was my favorite accomplishment. I grew up watching that show with my family every Friday night so that was a really cool full-circle moment. Just seeing how much goes into the show was pretty incredible. I never would’ve thought I would be on the show.

It seemed like you all timed TPT perfectly with the NIL deals we’ve witnessed in the last year. We’d love to hear your thoughts on that and how it’s enabled you all to grow.

AP: We created the company without NIL in mind. We were only working with former college athletes when we first launched and saw success with it. However, once the NIL rules changed, it did help us since we had the early momentum and were already proven in the space. It has definitely enabled us to grow since it allowed us to work with so many more athletes as opposed to waiting until they graduated/went professional.

We’ve seen you all work with Power 5 QBs like Stetson Bennett and J.J. McCarthy. Are there any new players/teams in the works that fans can look forward to?

AP: We have a lot of new products coming out. The next two products to release will be Cincinnati and Utah Football. Also, we are working on some college basketball autograph cards that we are really excited to get started on.

Do you care to talk about some challenges you all have faced as entrepreneurs so far? More importantly, how have you all overcome these obstacles?

AP: The biggest obstacle we face is the constantly changing landscape of name, image, and likeness (NIL). The NCAA has basically left this entire area now unregulated. Time management is another challenge. For the first year and a half, it was the three of us doing all the work. We did everything from social media, growing the brand, making the deals, and physically picking/packing the orders. Now that we have full time employees, it’s an additional challenge to manage and motivate them to help grow the company. As far as NIL, we overcome it by constantly monitoring the landscape and reading almost anything containing NIL to stay up to date. For time management, we try every day to push ourselves in the areas we see the greatest returns. Lastly, with employees, we try and communicate on a daily basis, so everyone is on the same page.

What does the future look like for The Players Trunk?

AP: In the future, we will continue to be the leader in having a platform that college athletes can go to, to sell their gear after their eligibility is over. In addition, we can be a one-stop-shop for a current college player to market themselves in NIL. This includes hot-moment apparel, experiences, trading cards, and signed memorabilia. In addition, we are growing our licensed business with universities. We currently have over 20 deals in place and look to grow that in the future.

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