In a momentous change that will significantly alter the college sports landscape, the NCAA has announced that it will finally allow student-athletes to be paid for their name, image, and likeness. They will be allowed to work with agents and explore brand partnerships, including social media opportunities, for compensation.
The Name, Image, and Likeness Policy, or NIL for short, is an interim policy until federal legislation or new NCAA rules are adopted. Some states, like Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, have passed NIL-related laws already—which would enable athletes to participate in activities that are “consistent with the laws.” In other states where there are no current NIL laws, athletes are free to make money off activities such as signing autographs or endorsement deals. In these cases, it will be up to the schools and conferences to make their own policies.
This move by the NCAA opens up influencer marketing to a whole new audience. Perhaps even more significantly, brands will now be able to localize their influencer marketing efforts through these college athletes and will have thousands of new influencer options to work with.
“This is huge news for local communities too. Because now you can work with a basketball player who goes to a local college and have them do a couple of posts, put their face on a pizza, and name it their name, and the creator gets some dollars, eats for free for a couple of years, and everybody wins,” said Ryan Berger, founding partner of HYPR.
The CEO of Opendorse, a sports tech company that helps athletes grow their endorsement value, Blake Lawrence, explained in an interview with USA TODAY Sports: “We are preparing for 100,000 student-athletes to register on our platform in the next 48 hours. There’s already 30,000 (registered) and we’re expecting to see 100,000+ more.”
Brands are already moving in on athletes of their choice, like University of Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez signing with Degree Deodorant and University of Miami quarterback D’Eriq King and defensive end Bubba Bolden signing with Florida-based moving company College Hunks for $20,000. With some states legislating NIL policy on their own, we’ll need to wait and see how the actual policies unfold, but one thing is clear—NCAA athletes provide an exciting new pool of talent, with a unique local emphasis, for influencer marketing. If brands haven’t considered working with college athletes for influencer marketing, now is the time. As these laws are subject to change, this time period will serve as a great testing phase for the effectiveness of college athletes on these platforms and how to best move forward.
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