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Nation-NIL Trends: Week 2

by michelle

Athletes NIL For Good, Meaningful Campaigns, Miami Football Deal, Opendorse Business Model

Has two weeks of Name, Image, and Likeness felt like a year for anyone else? Keeping up the news and identifying the trends has been insane. Turns out, there are 500,000 humans that were just given the ability to make some money… and that’s a lot of humans to keep up with. 

Read on for my takeaways from Week 2: 

THE GOOD

Athlete’s NIL For Good

A Florida State Lineman, Dillan Gibbons, is using his NIL in one of the best ways possible: Fundraising for his friend, Timothy Donovan, who is an 18 year old Notre Dame fan who suffers from a variety of severe medical conditions. Gibbons met Donovan when he was a freshman at Notre Dame and the two quickly became friends. When Gibbons started learning about NIL and ways that he could use his, his first thought was to start a fundraiser to help Donovan and his family come to the season opener game at FSU vs Notre Dame. 

“Once I began hearing things about name, image and likeness from major media sources … I mapped out a game plan in one of my strategic business decision classes at Notre Dame to how I could raise some money for Timothy and his family.”

As of today, the campaign has raised close to $50,000. 

Harry Miller, an offensive lineman at Ohio State, is sending 100 percent of the profits to his non-profit endeavor, M4N, “to provide education, food, medicine, physical therapy and discipleship for the kids at our school in Los Brasiles, Nicaragua.”

“I’m tremendously fortunate to have good friends, a good family support system, clothes, food,” Miller told The Columbus Dispatch recently. “I have my guitars and my books, so there’s not really much else I’m looking to buy. The reality is that the money can get stretched a lot further for a lot more people, and therefore, it’s the most utilitarian thing to do. It would be uncouth of me to not take note of that, especially for a community that’s been so supportive of me for upwards of a decade now. They deserve it.”

NIL NETWORK INSIGHT: Bravo to these. The ability for college athletes to now use their celebrity to raise money for the less fortunate is one of, if not my favorite, aspects of NIL. I’m looking forward to reading many more stories about athletes demonstrating their character and supporting their favorite causes. 

Meaningful Campaigns

Unilever launched their “Breaking Limits” Program which will feature collegiate athletes who are inspiring people to break limits everyday. Unilever’s approach to working with college athletes will underscore this strategy to highlight purpose-led initiatives, amplify athlete stories and experiences, and provide equal compensation to both men’s and women’s athletes in aggregate.

“This moment represents a tremendous opportunity to set the precedent for working with college athletes in a meaningful and thoughtful way,” said Rob Master, VP of Media and Digital Engagement at Unilever NA. “It’s not just about the star players or top draft picks – we want to amplify the voices and stories of athletes across the spectrum of college sports who have dedicated their lives to their sport and inspired others through their stories.”

The brand will celebrate college athletes through a number of programs including funding local community projects (i.e. recreation centers, youth organizations) and content partnerships. They have committed $5 million to the initiative over the next five years. 

NIL NETWORK INSIGHT: It’s easier than ever now for brands to draw up a marketing campaign and list it on one of the dozens of digital marketplaces out there. It takes a different kind of company to put creative energy into the campaign and select athletes based off of the company’s values as opposed to the size of their following. An additional benefit of these types of campaigns is that they are generally mutually beneficial to both parties. Great job, Unilever!

THE QUESTIONABLE

Miami Football Deal

Dan Lambert, a booster for University of Miami, is offering $6000 per year to all scholarship football athletes to advertise his American Top Team company (MMA Gyms in Florida) on social media. 

“I want to help the kids. I want to reward them for what they do, and I want a better product on the field, too,” Lambert told ESPN. “I want to improve the reputation of the school and the team I love so much. I think it’s a cool opportunity to get involved and make a difference.”

Lambert has also started a corporation, called Bring Back The U, that will be solely focused on putting money in the pockets of Miami football players. Bring Back the U will encourage local businesses to work with athletes and also plans to host fundraising events with proceeds donated to local businesses who agree to funnel it to Miami players. 

NIL NETWORK INSIGHT: American Top Team’s marketing campaign, at face value, is pay to play. Nothing about the offer has anything to do with the individual athlete’s personal brand and everything to do with them being a football player at University of Miami. The intent is to provide a recruiting advantage: Top prospects see that they too could make $6000/year without even having to find deals for themselves or build their personal brands. This is exactly what the NCAA was worried about. I’m 99% sure that every Power 5 school now has their boosters getting together, pooling resources, and trying to get their athletes paid MORE than the Miami deal. Where will the ceiling be? What are the repercussions? Before the Miami deal, I was hopeful that NIL could lessen the gap between the “haves” and “have nots”. Now, I’m not so sure. 

ON THE WATCH LIST

Opendorse Business Model

If you’ve been following NIL closely over the past six months, you’re well aware of the ongoing conversation around the legality of Opendorse’s business model. Darren Heitner, an attorney from Florida, has called it into question numerous times on Twitter. Blake Lawrence, the CEO of Opendorse, has defended it numerous times on Twitter. 

The argument is this: Opendorse contracts with universities to provide education and compliance assistance, but then also offers a marketplace for athletes to connect with brands. By Heitner’s reading of the Florida law, this is illegal. By Opendorse’s legal team’s reading, it isn’t. 

Florida’s state NIL bill reads: “A postsecondary educational institution, an entity whose purpose includes supporting or benefitting the institution or its athletic programs, or an officer, director, or employee of such institution or entity may not compensate or cause compensation to be directed to a current or prospective intercollegiate athlete for her or his name, image, or likeness.”

Kristi Dosh reported that University of Florida terminated their contract with Opendorse over this dispute. Lawrence commented that, “Our contract with Florida is alive and well” and that “There are no conflicts, real or perceived, that the market should be concerned with.”

He adds: “An institution is paying us for a product we provide. If that relationship eliminates the ability for a student athlete at that institution to use our product and/or be compensated by us or through our product, then if a university has ever catered in Chick-fil-A after a sporting event, after practice for the kids, then no kid on that campus can be compensated by Chick-fil-A. Or if a school has ever paid a hotel to host an official visitor, then that hotel chain could never compensate a student athlete at that school. This is a terribly slippery slope. The language is not tied to vendors of institutions. The limitations are put onto the boosters of those institutions.”

NIL NETWORK INSIGHT: My first question, as it’s been for months, is who or what entity is actually responsible for making a definitive decision on this? The state governments? Doubtful. The NCAA? Nope. The institutions? While they can control who they partner with, they aren’t responsible for that decision, either. 

With this being a gray area with no definitive answer, are the scare tactics responsible? Unlike Barstool Athletes, Opendorse wasn’t created out of thin air on July 1. This company was established in 2013 and while they’ve created a suite of additional services since then, have maintained a great reputation with the institutions that they serve. 

Finally, who do the scare tactics benefit? It’s pretty obvious that it’s Opendorse’s top competitor in the NIL space: INFLCR. 

The tea is hot with this one and I will definitely be watching how this plays out. 

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