Is 2022 the year of the student-athlete?
In July 2021, the NCAA changed its policy to allow athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness, or NIL. The move is monumental considering the revenue colleges and universities earn on their athletic programs through television rights and brand sponsorships.
In a move that helped highlight just how potentially lucrative it could be for young athletes to finally get a piece of the marketing action, Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry has entered into a brand relationship with UConn Huskies rookie Azzi Fudd in December to provide the young athlete with opportunities and support on and off the field.
According to SC30, Curry’s organization for her off-court endeavors, the partnership will help Fudd build, protect and monetize her personal brand, and allow the young athlete to focus on her education and performance on the court. In turn, it will support and promote SC30 initiatives and enterprises.
Tom Brady also made a similar move in December, teaming up with 10 college athletes on his Brady apparel brand, including Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara and Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders.
Michael Strahan’s talent management company, Smac Entertainment, announced in July 2021 that it was accepting student-athlete marketing engagements from WorkForce Software, Simply Crowns, and Madison Healthplex Performance to align with student-athletes from HBCU and partnered with Deion Sanders to support student-athletes at Jackson State University.
And most recently, UConn Huskies athlete Paige Bueckers signed a multi-year NIL endorsement deal with Gatorade, and weeks later signed an NIL deal with StockX — a move the company says is another step in her commitment. towards female athletes. StockX partnered with Division Street in December, a company created by Nike co-founder Phil Knight, Nike executives and University of Oregon donors to help Oregon student-athletes with NIL Bids, to auction off 100 Air Jordan VIII Oregon player-exclusive sneakers to benefit the University of Oregon Student-Athletes.
Nike announced its first student-athlete the same month, UCLA women’s soccer forward Reilyn Turner, who will team up with the company to work with community partners based in Los Angeles.
While most receive scholarships at the schools they attend, it has been argued for years that this is not enough and that amateur athletes should be compensated, given what colleges earn through their scholarship programs. ‘Athletics. Supporters believe college athletes should receive a share of the revenue schools bring in for their games as fans fill the arena and millions tune in across the United States to watch these athletes perform.
For example, Sportscasting.com reported in March 2021 that 20 college football teams brought in over $100 million in revenue. USA Today conducted a college athletics survey that found the University of Alabama, known for its Crimson Tide football team that unites a state without a professional sports franchise, brought in $164 million in total revenue. during the 2018-19 season (although his expenses were $185.3 million). The university ranked seventh, while number one-ranked Texas reported revenues of $223.9 million (with expenses of $204.2 million).
The NCAA Board of Governors said in April 2020 that it supports student-athletes being compensated for third-party endorsements related and separate from athletics, including through social media, personal appearances and their own businesses. States began implementing their own NIL rules ahead of the NCAA’s decision, including California, Colorado, Florida and Nebraska.
Many athletes are cashing in and turning to sports tech company Opendorse, which contracts with athletes to get paid for social media posts and appearances. Athletes set their own prices for offers and indicate the types of offers they want. The company founded by two former Nebraska football players in 2013 has partnered with Twitter to help college students start making money from their tweets.
Bueckers said her deal with StockX, a company she bought before signing her deal, sought to align with brands that respect her and her values, while using her platform to support other women. in the sport.
“I live in the present,” she said. “I hope to collaborate with artists and be an ambassador for women in the sports ecosystem. This is the direction in which we are heading now.
The Indi engagement commerce video platform, founded by Greg Giraudi and former Buy.com CEO Neel Grover, also aims to help NIL athletes monetize their name, image and likeness through different avenues. like product recommendations, video on demand, live shopping and more. . President and former athlete Shikha Uberoi Bajpai said she sees the platform as a way to teach micro-entrepreneurship to student-athletes and school students. She mentioned how agents will focus on high-income athletes, but Indi helps athletes in other sports such as softball, field hockey and swimming.
“You’re the one building your own store and yourself,” she said. “The stuff offered to students is transactional and it doesn’t teach a young adult anything and that’s why there’s a lot of meaning in Indi because you’re teaching them how to start a business.”
But Uberoi Bajpai acknowledges that there are pitfalls for students. For example, offers that can be used to recruit athletes are prohibited, and offers must not interfere with a student’s season.
“Indi is done on athlete and student time and it doesn’t have to be done on campus because it’s supposed to be private time. But all of these rules are subject to change. They can say that you can monetize in this way and tomorrow it might be undone. It’s not worth it to me to jeopardize an athlete’s game at this school.
Now that student athletes can monetize their name, image and likeness as influencers, what does this mean for fashion brands?
“For fashion brands, there is a unique opportunity,” said Matt Davis, vice president of Excel Sports Management. “Whether you’re working with an influencer or an athlete, brands will need to do their due diligence and when they seek to align themselves with those athletes, it will depend on the influence they have on social media.”
Excel Sports Management represents basketball, baseball, golf and football athletes including Tiger Woods, Clayton Kershaw, reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and 2021 NBA Championship Milwaukee Bucks Khris Middleton.
The company signed high school basketball player Mikey Williams to an NIL deal in July 2021 and Indiana University player Trayce Jackson-Davis in October 2021.
“We are actively looking for the right organic opportunities,” Davis said. “Since the announcement, it’s a new space for everyone and for brands. It’s not a new space for agents, but from a brand perspective, it’s evolving on a daily basis. It’s been a long time coming and we’re well positioned for this space.
Davis explained that deals with student-athletes will vary based on “base pay or upfront guarantees” and that brands can “compensate individual athletes” or “do collaborations,” but certain restrictions apply. For example, some categories are restricted, such as sneakers where schools already have agreements with brands.
“The goal is to start building the brand early, so it’s already an established relationship,” Davis said.
Deena Bahri, Marketing Director of StockX, agrees regarding her deal with Bueckers. “We like to partner with rising next-wave brands rather than brands that have etched their peak of notoriety,” she said. “NIL is interesting because we help athletes on the rise. Hopefully this will allow rising stars to stay in athletics and capitalize on their likeness. Some jumped in early so they could launch their mark and that could come at the expense of a top college athlete. I just think it’s great that young athletes and young female athletes can take power and do it in a way that’s community driven.