While confined to their respective homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, a group of college team managers and former college athletes founded The Players Trunk, an online marketplace for athletes to sell their sports gear, merchandise and collectibles to an enthusiastic audience of college sports fans, from full-fledged collectors to students who just want a star player’s practice jersey.
- Jason Lansing and Austin Pomerantz were team managers for the University of Michigan basketball team while earning degrees in sport management.
- Hunter Pomerantz, Austin’s brother, was team manager for the Syracuse University basketball team while earning a degree in sport management and business marketing.
- Charles Matthews first played basketball for Kentucky then transferred to Michigan. He then signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers and now plays for the Maine Celtics, a G league team owned by the Boston Celtics.
- Zavier Simpson played basketball for Michigan, becoming nationally known as “Captain Hook” for his running (and unguardable) hook shot. He now plays for the Oklahoma Thunder.
It all began when Charles asked Jason to help him sell the sports gear that he had accumulated during his college basketball career on Instagram. Charles had graduated and was waiting to be drafted into the NBA, which meant he was no longer subject to NCAA rules that do not allow college athletes to make money from their participation in sports.
College athletes are showered with merchandise throughout their amateur careers, including team-issued gear featuring school colors, sometimes with player-specific markings and shoes of all kinds from the big brands—stuff that too often ends up in the back of a closet. Charles was inventive enough to think he might be able to make a few bucks off of it. And he did—lots of bucks actually. Charles told Zavier, who then asked Jason to help him. Two things were clear: there was a market for this merchandise, and Instagram was too cumbersome and too difficult to navigate to be an extensive marketplace. They needed a website with a user-friendly centralized platform that would attract more serious buyers and more athletes.
Austin and Hunter came on board, and the five of them decided to create The Players Trunk—with no idea how to build a website or how to launch a business. YouTube tutorials solved the first problem; tapping into alumni networks and assembling an advisory board of entrepreneurs experienced in startups solved the second. In July 2020, The Players Trunk was up and running with items from Charles, Zavier and a few other athletes they knew. In one month, they had 45 players. Less than a year later, they had 450 players from basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball and lacrosse. Since then, athletes from gymnastics, soccer, swimming and diving, track and field, and wrestling have joined the site.
How to Join The Players Trunk
- Go to the website and click on “Seller Sign Up.”
- Fill out the simple form. A TPT member will contact you, usually in less than 24 hours.
- Sign a partnership deal with The Players Trunk.
- Send them the merchandise.
At that point, you are finished except for discussing with TPT the price you would like to set on the items. They will advise, but the decision is yours.
Examples of What to Sell on The Players Trunk
- Uniforms and jerseys, particularly practice- or game-worn, particularly with the athlete’s name on the back
- Any item made for the athlete by the manufacturer to performance specifications, such as items with a player’s number or initials sewn on
- Shoes from the big brands, including lifestyle shoes, running and training sneakers, team-exclusive editions and customized versions of current signature sneakers
- Limited edition player-exclusive sneakers made for team members and coaching staff, with team logo are even more exclusive
- Equipment (e.g., bats, hockey and lacrosse sticks), gloves, hats and balls
From the very start, when Charles was selling his gear on Instagram, it was obvious that fans, more than anything, wanted some contact with their favorite athlete. Fans messaged Charles just to chat, even if they didn’t buy an item. So the athletes on TPT can offer personalized video messages, say to wish someone a happy birthday.
The Players Trunk Does All the Work
The TPT receives your items, photographs them, arranges them (“packs your trunk”), posts them on the website, sells them, ships them and handles all customer service communications. For that, they take a small percentage of the sales price.
All five founders reach out regularly to college athletes, previously to those players whose eligibility had expired. Since June 2021, athletes still playing college sports can sell their items on TPT (and anywhere else they’d like). The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the NCAA can no longer prevent college athletes from receiving compensation.
That greatly increased the number of athletes taking advantage of the opportunity that TPT offers. As of last count, there are more than 1,000 athletes on the site.