Modern grooming brand Faculty has received investment from USC Trojan quarterback Caleb Williams. The young athlete is officially part-owner of the brand and will be included in campaigns, collaborations and revenue partnerships.
The 20-year-old freshman athlete started his collegiate career as an Oklahoma Sooner and took the field as the starting quarterback in the middle of the season, but in January transferred to USC.
Williams is also well-known for his grooming habits, which include painting his nails, a practice that began with his mom who is a nail technician. He said he was around nail art his entire life, but started practicing the art after seeing his favorite artists like rappers A$AP Rocky and Lil Yachty dabble in nail art.
“You know, some people love it, some people hate it,” Williams said. “Either way I don’t really care. I never have been one to care much about what people have to say or think about me. I just kind of do as I feel and if people like it great, if they don’t, whatever. I feel like everyone should express themselves however they chose. If me painting my nails playing football helps some people feel more confident in expressing themselves then great.”
Faculty co-founder Fenton Jagdeo said Caleb was introduced to his team in late 2021, and the team was interested in the young athlete as they’ve been exploring the NIL ruling. They found a natural connection in nail art, which is Faculty’s primary product offering.
The brand launched its first nail lacquer and nail stickers in 2020, and the following year received $3 million in seed funding from the Esteé Lauder Cos. Inc. and participants Maisie Williams from HBO series “Game of Thrones” and multiplatinum recording artist Iann Dior (stylized as iann dior), among others.
Faculty also launches its newest nail lacquer colors on Monday: stratus/white, fader/black, terra firma/red, lambert/blue and 303/yellow, as well as new nail stickers and merchandise products such as apparel, socks, a baseball cap and a water bottle. The polish and new stickers retail for $12.50 and will be available in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.
In addition, Faculty signed on as exclusive cosmetics partner for New Orleans-based two-day music festival Buku.
“This is the first real test of our might and the dollars Esteé Lauder has entrusted in us,” said Jagdeo. “It dawned on us that direct-to-consumer is reliant on what retail looks like. We want to own our narrative as much as we can.”
He added about Williams: “For Caleb, when you get him early you start to interact with his audience. We’re interested in getting young athletes, we’re interested in the demo so we can show the comfort of expressing. As we start to grow, expect to see product collaborations, expect to see campaigns. We’re still in the primitive days of the relationship, but expect to see that. He mentioned his efforts in mental health so we’re thinking how we can tie them together.”
This partnership is the latest happening in NIL and one of the first to involve men’s grooming, skin care or personal care. Brands like Head & Shoulders and Gillette have leaned on athletes like longtime Pittsburgh Steelers players Troy Polamalu and more recently Odell Beckham Jr., who recently invested in oral care brand Moon and joined as an ambassador.
“Football comes across as hyper masculine,” said Jagdeo. “It’s a test of strength that’s pumped in with testosterone. Faculty can proliferate in an environment like that with the tension in masculinity and the way the sport is moving. Caleb is great because he is one of the quintessential archetypes for why cosmetics are purely psychological.”
Though the new partners are not doing a traditional campaign, Faculty turned to filmmaker Antonio Chicaia to produce a short film titled “Daydream,” featuring everyday activities and leisure enhanced with nail colors.
“We’re here to make you feel good,” said Jagdeo. “We’re here for the new wave of masculinity.”