The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The Swarm Collective keeping Iowa sports competitive amid new era in college athletics

The collective was founded in July 2022 by Brad Heinrichs and has over 2,000 members so far.
Grace Smith
Iowa Swarm Collective President and CEO Brad Heinrichs speaks during a press conference for the Iowa Swarm Collective, a name, image, and likeness group partnering with Hawkeye student-athletes, at the Heights Rooftop in Iowa City on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Heinrichs sees this NIL as an opportunity for students to profit on their name, image, and likeness. “These kids are going to learn how to market themselves,” Heinrichs said. “That’s the education I didn’t get while I was in school.”

Once the clock hit midnight on July 1, 2021, a new era in college athletics began.

It was the first day student-athletes could legally profit off their name, image, and likeness. Over two years later, NIL has grown larger than some may have expected. 

According to a study by Opendorse, the leading athlete marketplace and NIL technology company, the NIL market should grow by 11.2 percent, reaching $1.17 billion in 2023. 

Since the NCAA enacted its new NIL rules, players have factored in how much money they can potentially make when committing or transferring to a school.  

So how has Iowa Athletics stayed afloat amid these changes?

The Swarm.

What is The Swarm?

The Swarm, which helped lure in transfers like Cade McNamara and Erick All this past offseason, was founded by Brad Heinrichs in July 2022.

Heinrichs was a four-year letterwinner on the Iowa golf team and has served as the president and CEO of Foster & Foster Consulting Actuaries, Inc. since 2005. 

Over a year had passed since the NCAA enacted its new NIL rules, and no one had put together a plan to help Iowa sports compete with powerhouse programs like Alabama and LSU.

So, with his success in both athletics and business, Heinrichs took the initiative to help his alma mater. 

Others on The Swarm leadership team include Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Brickman and Vice President of Events and Engagement Jayne Oswald. 

Brickman is an Iowa native who played baseball at the University of Northern Iowa. He spent the last five years working for the University of Iowa, most recently as the director of development for athletics. Oswald earned her bachelor’s degree from the UI in 2003 and has served as the director of events with Iowa Athletics Development at the UI Center for Advancement since 2010.

“I’m grateful that Brad thought through this collective and really provided a great avenue and allowed Iowa to get started on a really great foot,” Interim Athletic Director Beth Goetz told The Daily Iowan. “What he’s organized has been a great way to capture the passion that everybody has for the Hawks.”

Heinrichs created two separate organizations: The Swarm Inc. and The Swarm Collective. 

The Swarm Collective is a 501(c)(3)nonprofit organization that pays Hawkeye athletes involved in football and men’s and women’s basketball as independent contractors to help serve the community. 

The collective has teamed up with charities including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Horizons Meals on Wheels, Iowa Sports Foundation, the Iowa City Community School District, and Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Iowa men’s basketball players Payton Sandfort, Tony Perkins, and Patrick McCaffery dropped off meals at homes of those in need through Horizons Meals on Wheels. Iowa athletes have also made frequent visits to Garner, Van Allen, North Bend, and Tiffin Elementary School to talk, read books, and laugh with students in different classrooms. 

Heinrichs said the feedback from these organizations has been nothing but positive. 

“We are grateful for the partnership we have with SWARM,” Iowa City schools wrote on The Swarm’s website. “Our students have enjoyed getting to connect with student-athletes through morning greetings, panel discussions, and classroom visits. Through this partnership, memorable moments have been created for many of our students and staff.” 

There are five different levels of membership within the collective: champions, ambassadors, all-conference, all-American, and captain’s club. 

Those on each level receive different amounts of access to Iowa Athletics based on how much they donate on a monthly or yearly basis. Lower-level members receive things like decals, T-shirts, and access to pregame events, while those in the higher levels get the opportunity to know the athletes on a more personal level through Q&As and receive priority access to away games. 

Last year, Heinrichs said the collective took a group of 20 or 25 of its bigger donors on the team plane to New York City to watch Iowa men’s basketball play Duke at Madison Square Garden. 

Those who want to support the collective can also make a one-time donation. All donations are tax-deductible and go into a general fund unless a donor gives at least $1,000. Then, the donation may be designated to one of the three specific sports. 

Heinrichs said The Swarm has about 2,100 members so far. To stay competitive, the goal is to reach at least 10,000 members and raise over $10 million annually. In the first five months with about 1,300 members, $3 million was donated to the collective. 

“We welcome and appreciate members of all levels, and they do make a difference in the success of our student-athletes,” Heinrichs told the DI. 

The Swarm Inc.

The Swarm Inc., on the other hand, is run like a business rather than a charity. Corporations can hire and pay a lump sum of money to Iowa athletes for advertising and marketing their products in several ways, including on social media platforms and in commercials. 

Iowa women’s basketball guard and 2022 National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark has promoted several corporations on her social media, including Hy-Vee, Buick, and Nike. 

Hawkeye starting running back Kaleb Johnson was one of five college football players to sign a deal with Powerade and posted a video for the company’s “It Takes More” campaign on his social media. It is the most extensive marketing effort in college football with planned ads on TV, digital, radio, and social media. As part of the campaign, Powerade also teamed up with more than 60 other athletes across the country for additional campaign content to go live throughout the season. 

The average income from NIL deals for student-athletes ranges from $1,000 to $10,000.

“I have two separate organizations in order to maximize what the student-athletes can obtain on their name, image, and likeness, but also to make sure that our donors can receive a tax deduction,” Heinrichs said. “And we’re the only one in the country that I think is doing it this way. Or one of the only ones.”

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz has mentioned his support for The Swarm several times, along with men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery and women’s basketball coaches Lisa Bluder and Jan Jensen. 

Heinrichs said from the first time he sat down with each of them, they were fully on board with his plans for the collective.

“It is absolutely essential for survival,” McCaffery said of the collective at The Swarm’s introductory press conference on July 19, 2022.

Introduction of SWARM Golden Ale 

Heinrichs wanted to create some passive income for The Swarm so the collective wouldn’t have to rely as much on donations. 

The Swarm paired with Exile Brewing Company in Des Moines on May 16, 2023, to create a custom-branded beer, SWARM Golden Ale. 20 percent of the revenue from sales is contributed to the collective. 

The Swarm beer netted over $30,000 in revenue in June, despite the beer not being available on store shelves until the latter part of the month. The beer was even more prevalent in July, earning The Swarm $58,500. August, however, was the biggest month yet, with $75,000 flooding in from hawkeye fans across the country.

In the next few months, profits are expected to continually increase, as the beer is now sold inside Kinnick Stadium, which holds 69,250 spectators, this fall. 

The back of each 16-ounce can has a QR code directing consumers to The Swarm website. Heinrichs said he wanted to do this to create more awareness for the collective because many Hawkeye fans who attend games are not on social media. 

About 130 miles west of Iowa City, Iowa State’s We Will Collective partnered with West O Beer on June 27 to make its own custom beverage, Ames Lager. 

The We Will Collective receives $3 per case of Ames Lager. Ames Lager is not being sold inside Jack Trice Stadium this season, however. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited in Jack Trice Stadium except for spectators sitting in the skybox seats.

Heinrichs said the collective has about 2,100 members so far. To stay competitive, the goal is to reach at least 10,000 members and raise over $5 million annually. 

“I’m hopeful SWARM beer will be a part of the Kinnick experience for a lot of people,” Heinrichs said on Aug. 29. 

SWARM Vodka was then released on July 14 in partnership with Foundry Distilling Co. in West Des Moines, with 25 percent of all sales donated to The Swarm.

Heinrichs said he’s not surprised other collectives across the country have started to explore the same idea with beer.  TCU, Cincinnati, Boise State, and West Virginia’s NIL collectives also partnered with breweries to make their own beer.

But Heinrichs is just focused on Iowa’s success. 

“I don’t really think too hard about competing with the [We Will Collective],” Heinrichs said. “I wish them well. I know how difficult it is to run a collective. While we may compete for some of the same players that they do, I’m not concerned with what they’re doing over there.”

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About the Contributors
Kenna Roering
Kenna Roering, Sports Editor
Kenna Roering is The Daily Iowan's sports editor. She is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism with a minor in sports and recreation management. Kenna previously worked as a sports reporter for men's wrestling and volleyball and was the summer sports editor in 2023. This is her second year with the DI.
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.