In a seismic paradigm shift, we’re saying goodbye to the days when student-athletes weren’t able to generate an ROI on their popularity and saying hello to an era where they can potentially earn six to seven figures through their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL).
With the right knowledge, athletes can leverage their talents, build their brands, and secure their financial futures by becoming adaptable, open to learning, and proactive in shaping long-term athletic careers.
What is NIL?
Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) refers to an individual’s right to profit from their personal brand and identity, earning money from their own NIL. Caveats allow athletes to earn money based on their popularity, reputation, and public image without violating NCAA rules or risking their eligibility in college athletics.
This includes endorsements, sponsorships, social media promotions, and various commercial opportunities.
Name, Image, Likeness Work for Student Athletes
Traditionally, students have been restricted from signing NIL deals, but following the NCAA vs. Alston case in 2021, the door for significant changes opened to NIL policies. Following the case, 32 states have already implemented updated regulations, leaving several states without concrete guidelines regarding NIL and a lot of room for uncertainty for athletes.
With potential discrepancies between school and state regulations around NIL, it’s essential for athletes to engage with school athletic departments and compliance offices for support and clarification. For example, regulations typically prohibit student-athletes from endorsing products like alcohol, gambling, or smoking, and a violation can cost you your position.
NIL policy also includes standard specific prohibitions:
- Deals with a Quid Pro Quo: Student-athletes should provide a service or create content, like a social media post, in return for payment.
- Performance-Linked Deals: Payments or deals must not be tied to an athlete’s performance or achievements in their sport.
- Recruitment Inducements: NIL deals should not be offered as incentives for an athlete’s commitment to a particular school.
- Schools and NIL Deals: Universities cannot directly enter into NIL deals with their athletes. All agreements should be conducted through external brands or agencies.
NCAA’s 2023 Guidelines
The NCAA’s revised 2023 NIL Guidelines introduced several crucial changes to existing regulations, which include:
Under the new guidelines, athletes have complete agency and autonomy in pursuing NIL deals. They can work with agents and sports marketing experts to negotiate contracts and to secure fair and lucrative opportunities.
The NCAA has introduced comprehensive educational resources to help athletes navigate the complexities of NIL deals. Workshops, webinars, and informational sessions are readily accessible to empower athletes with skilled knowledge in contracts, tax implications, and brand management.
Athletes can form partnerships with brands and promote products, both locally and nationally. This allows athletes to leverage their social media presence, connect with their audience authentically, and to engage with potential sponsors independently.
What Are NIL Collectives?
A striking facet of the NIL revolution is the emergence of “collectives,” or third-party entities dedicated to generating and supporting NIL opportunities for collegiate athletes. These collectives have swiftly become major players in the NIL landscape, facilitating a new range of opportunities, including public appearances, autograph signings, and brand partnerships.
INFLCR, a third-party app collaborating with over 200 colleges on NIL management, notes a substantial impact of collectives for student-athletes, with nearly 70% of transactions on the INFLCR app originating from this space reflecting their pivotal role in the NIL ecosystem.
Support for NIL Athletes
Navigating the complexities of NIL deals is no small task. Athletes are encouraged to seek guidance from professionals like attorneys, accountants, and sports marketing agents, especially as the deals grow in scale.
High school athletes who aspire to compete at the college level should carefully consider the full implications before signing an NIL deal. State high school athletic associations govern the extent to which high school athletes can monetize their NIL while maintaining their high school eligibility. Most states permit this, with the exception of Texas.
Three Considerations for Athletes
While NIL provides promising prospects, it’s essential to be well-versed in the intricacies so that student-athletes can feel empowered in decisions about their futures. Here are three positions to consider:
1. Building a Personal Brand:
Cultivating a strong personal brand is absolutely paramount. Authentic engagement with your fanbase through content and a genuine connection with the audience is the cornerstone of NIL deals. A killer highlight reel video is also crucial!
2. Legal and Financial Literacy:
Understanding contracts and financial implications is crucial. Athletes should consult legal and financial experts to ensure they make informed decisions and don’t ‘sign their life away’ without all the details upfront.
3. Balancing Academics and NIL Opportunities:
Achieving a balance between academic commitments and endorsement opportunities is crucial for maintaining athletic and academic excellence – not to mention your position on the team. Having an academic savvy can also open more doors in the future for post-sports career longevity.
Looking for a little help generating NIL brand offers for extra athlete connection?
StellaPop Sports Management can help you navigate the rules of the game!