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UNC-Duke veterans join forces in NIL partnerships off the court

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UNC junior guard RJ Davis (4) looks to pass during the men’s basketball game against Duke in the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday, March 4, 2023. UNC fell to Duke 62-57.

For decades, the UNC-Duke rivalry has been a money-making endeavor for all parties involved except one: the players.

But with the recent emergence of name, image and likeness deals in college athletics, all that has changed.

Despite their discord on the court, UNC's Armando Bacot and RJ Davis have teamed up with Duke's Jeremy Roach in recent months for various NIL deals. These advertisements leverage the renowned rivalry to spotlight the companies involved and channel NIL earnings to the players.

Daniel Hennes, agent to Bacot, Davis and Roach, attests that the rivalry between them remains unaffected.

“The only difference now is the people actually playing the game and actually who are a part of the rivalry get to profit off of it,” Hennes said.

'You're able to get more value for the brand'

The NIL connection between the players began at the beginning of 2023, when Bacot and Roach signed a deal with BOA Nutrition: a Raleigh-based sports performance supplement company.

In November, Bacot and Roach appeared in a Fortnite OG ad together. Hennes said he likes deals that are competition-focused because they get people talking and generate awareness for the brand.

“We looked at it as an opportunity where it's like, you're able to get more value for the brand, and I'm able to get more value for each player by putting the two of them together,” Hennes said. “Because whatever someone does when it's UNC and Duke, literally whatever they do, people are going to talk about it and people are going to watch it and it's going to get comments and engagement."

More recently, Davis and Roach were featured in a CVS commercial showcasing the in-store pickup function of its mobile app. Two identical ads were produced, allowing each player an opportunity to provide the voiceover. In Davis’ rendition, he provides the tagline, “I can spend less time shopping and more time focusing on what matters: beating Duke.” 

The ad was part of an NIL campaign by Postgame, a leading NIL agency that helps brands organize partnerships with college athletes.

“We want to play off the rivalry of Duke and Carolina in a lighthearted way, because this is sort of family-oriented,” Danny Morrissey, co-founder at Postgame, said. “CVS is a family-oriented brand, so obviously you didn't want to do it distastefully for the brand.”

'It's the same intensity of the rivalry'

The relationships between Davis, Roach and Bacot go all the way back to elementary school. Davis said he's known Roach since the fifth or sixth grade. Bacot played with Roach in AAU, agreeing that him and Davis are both "cool" with the Duke guard.

Now that all three are represented by the same agent, joining forces for NIL purposes was a simple decision.

That being said, the competition between them has not faltered. When asked who was the best actor amongst the group, Bacot promptly responded, “Oh, definitely me.”

Davis disagreed: “Me. 100 percent. I’m like Adam Sandler. I don’t think they have a comparison for actors.”

Hennes broke the tie.

“I think Armando’s been doing it for longer,” Hennes said. “Armando has that Outer Banks experience.”

This competitive spirit will shift from acting to basketball when Duke and UNC face off on the hardwood on Feb. 3. While they may be friends and business partners off of the court, they are still Tar Heels and Blue Devils on it.

“Armando wants nothing more than to beat Duke on the court and Duke wants nothing more than to beat UNC on the court — it’s the same intensity of the rivalry,” Hennes said. “The difference is, at least now this time, they're allowed to profit off the rivalry and lean into it in that way.”

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@brendan_lunga18

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com