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What the Name, Image and Likeness Rules Mean for Your Institution

Jul 8, 2021 8:00:00 AM / by Adam Miller

July 1 marked one of the most historic days in the history of college athletics. For the first time ever, every college athlete has the right to make money from endorsements and sell the rights to their names, images and likenesses

The NCAA suspended its previous rules, which prohibited athletes from making money in any way while attending an institution. The decision will apply to all three divisions, or roughly 460,000 athletes, and has major ramifications for both current and prospective students.  

Contrary to what some believe, name, image and likeness is going to impact more than just the top Division I sports, such as basketball and football. In fact, the University of Nebraska believes that every athlete attending its institution will have at least one deal regardless of their sport or role on the team.

So what is name, image and likeness and what should institutions do to put students in the best position to take advantage of the decision? This post explains the impact name, image and likeness will have on your institution and how to prepare for the flood of inquiries you will likely receive from student-athletes.

What is name, image and likeness?

Name, image and likeness is the new NCAA policy that allows athletes to capitalize on their individual brand and be compensated through third-party endorsements. Examples of athletes taking advantage of NIL could include sponsored social media posts, appearances or appearing in advertisements. 

While athletes can’t use their school trademarks or agree to sponsorships with brands that conflict with an already existing school deal (for instance, a basketball player can’t sign with Adidas when their team is with Nike), there seems to be great latitude athletes can take in order to capitalize on their brand.  

The majority of athletes are likely to use personal appearances, camps, autograph signings, NFTs and ads as a way to promote their brand. Institutions that don’t compete for attention with professional sports franchises will suddenly have a unique advantage because local businesses will clamor to work with athletes that are well-known in the community.

For example, an athlete attending an institution in New Mexico could suddenly agree to an autograph signing at a local car dealership, whereas before this type of arrangement would be prohibited. NIL ultimately creates more parity across every sport as athletes will now seek institutions where they can stand out.

What are some challenges with name, image and likeness?

The NCAA has been slow to adopt a league-wide standard regarding NIL. However, institutions that have the most to gain have been gearing their athletes to prepare for opportunities over the last several months will have a distinct advantage over those that have yet to create guidance for their student-athletes.

Beginning July 1, any institution that participates in college athletics at the Division III level or above has been thrust into new uncharted territory. Institutions are already scrambling to craft policies in accordance with state and local policies, in addition to understanding what the new ruling means from a legal standpoint. 

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There are already 24 states with NIL laws, creating additional confusion that is going to last until the federal government puts a nationwide standard in place.  

However, current and prospective students are going to want to cash in now. For the next several months, athletic departments are likely to face a mountain of inquiries with students wanting to know how they can capitalize on their name, image and likeness. Unfortunately, most institutions are likely too overwhelmed to handle guiding students in a way that can help them profit off their brand in a constructive and responsible manner.

Students could have questions on everything from how they can monetize their social media accounts to questions about finding kids looking for lacrosse lessons and a whole gamut of items in-between. On top of that, many of these students are likely to have questions about tax law and how to report the earnings they’ll make throughout their various deals.

The process is sure to create confusion as some institutions will allow staff members to help students arrange NIL opportunities while others will prohibit it. Regardless, institutions need to educate athletes on how to maximize their use of NIL, in addition to understanding issues related to financial literacy, time management and taxes. 

This will put tremendous stress on institutions to create resources and build programs around educating student-athletes on this new ruling. Yet accomplishing this objective will be easier said than done.

How can athletic departments take advantage of NIL?

Institutions have the most to gain by creating resources that can guide players into understanding the type of options available to them. A women’s gymnast with hundreds of thousands of followers will have different opportunities available compared to an offensive lineman at a Big 12 school. 

While every athlete won’t be making six-figures off name, image and likeness, there will certainly be some type of opportunity available to any athlete who wants to participate. Athletic departments need to create structure around what student-athletes can and cannot do, provide professional connections and help create strategies around maximizing their brand.

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Institutions that fully embrace NIL will end up with the best recruits. Nearly every institution has a way to create a competitive advantage. The key is to publicize why their program is best-suited to help student-athletes achieve their full marketing potential. 

Athletic programs will need to prove that their program is not only lenient, but forward-thinking. Coaches previously got away with having a no social media policy during athletic seasons. Now, any coach that maintains that position will risk losing their best players as followers and social media engagement becomes a matter of dollars and cents. 

Name, image and likeness will forever change the landscape of college sports. Institutions that show their ability to quickly adapt will stand to benefit from both a competitive standpoint and achieve more engagement from their booster program.

The role of chatbots in name, image and likeness

As institutions are creating policies, it will be nearly impossible for institutions to put together as much detail as students will require. And even if they did, student-athletes are just like any other student. They want a single resource where they can find the answers without sifting through a large book of legalese. 

However, chatbots can help institutions synthesize policies, direct student-athletes to various resources and help ensure they can activate a successful NIL strategy. Chatbots can help students answer questions related to how NIL impacts their financial aid, compliance issues, limitations around NIL, how to disclose various endorsement deals, where athletes can get help building their personal brand and much more. 

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Institutions can also use chatbots for providing links to valuable video tutorials, rather than bombarding your staff with constant meeting requests. Chatbots can ultimately allow athletic programs to organize their NIL content in a way that’s student-centric and easy to digest regardless of where they are in the process.

There is no denying that name, image and likeness has forever changed college athletics. While this opportunity is exciting for students and institutions alike, there is little doubt that the short-term impact will lead to chaos and more questions than answers. However, by relying on automation to help communicate clear and coherent policies to student-athletes, institutions will end up better-served to be a critical advocate for those looking to build their brand.

Adam Miller

Written by Adam Miller

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