July 1, 2021 was a historic day. Following that day, NCAA student-athletes around the country were able to profit from their name, image, and likeness for the very first time, ushering in a new era of compensation and individual autonomy in college sports.
It has been an absolutely crazy 30 days since that announcement. The frenzy around student-athlete opportunities is just starting, however, and there is a lot that we can take away from the first month to make sure this new era is full of success and safety for all parties involved.
Here’s what we’ve learned in the first month of the new NIL laws.
NIL Is For Every Athlete
Prior to July 1, 2021, there were a lot of opinions flying around about who new NIL laws would really matter to. “It’s only the top players who can make money. Only the first-round NBA and NFL picks will benefit,” many said. Some assumed that the only winners of NIL would be the student-athletes who were already on their way to million-dollar contracts in the pros. What we’ve seen in the past month definitively disproves that.
The new Name, Image, and Likeness regulations benefit EVERY college athlete. While it is true, yes, that the biggest checks are reserved for the student-athletes with nationwide fame, there is plenty of room at the table for other student-athletes. Whether it is student-athletes from Division III schools, student-athletes who play niche sports, or student-athletes who don’t have follower counts in the tens of thousands, they all can see success in this new era. Even just the act of getting a few packages of free product or a small sum of money from a brand is a huge win.
We’ve been particularly encouraged to see so many HBCU student-athletes sign up to MarketPryce and show a passion for marketing. Most of these student-athletes don’t have nationally-televised games or multi-million dollar booster programs, but they still have enthusiasm for working with brands.
We All Have A Role To Play In Education
Student-athletes are surrounded by education, in the classroom, and on the field, but not much of it centers around how to market themselves (understandably). Some, larger schools have started to provide their student-athletes proper social media and digital marketing training, but the majority haven’t, and that’s ok (for now)!
Now, however, as student-athletes start to take on this new responsibility, we should all play a role in educating them. Pro athletes, brands, marketplaces (like MarketPryce), coaches, mentors, journalists — we all have a role in educating young student-athletes on best practices surrounding marketing deals.
Brands Are Into It
While most of us knew student-athletes would be interested in closing marketing deals once they were allowed to, it was less clear how brands and businesses would react. Would a brand that has only ever worked with a pro athlete be willing to work with a student-athlete? Would brands see the value that student-athletes can bring? The answer to these questions has been a resounding YES.
We’ve seen so many cool brands jump at the opportunity to work with student-athletes, embracing this new era with ambition and creativity. Many have taken advantage of TikTok, where student-athletes seem to have a stronger hold on the audience base than most professionals.
Patience Is Key
Seeing as this is such a new world for student-athletes, coaches, brands, and others, a good deal of patience will be required from all parties to see how this industry will shake out. Student-athletes will need to have the patience that not every endorsement deal is the right one for them and that is ok. Coaches should have patience with their athletes, knowing that these exciting opportunities don’t detract from playing a sport and working hard on the field.
Brands will need to have the patience that student-athletes are figuring out the sponsorship space for the first time and don’t have the same resources as professionals, so they may make mistakes.
At MarketPryce, we’re proud to say we’ve already helped hundreds of college athletes connect with some amazing brands for endorsement deals and we couldn’t be more bullish on this industry continuing to grow over time.