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Nation-NIL Trends: Week 4

by michelle

Sarah Fuller Featured in a Music Video, Quinn Ewers and High School NIL

One month of NIL. What a whirlwind. This week felt a bit like the “eye of the storm”: The initial flurry of news settled slightly but as athletes return to campus for pre-season camps and fall semester right around the corner, I think it’s most likely to ramp right back up again. 

I appreciated this week as an opportunity to actually focus on NIL Network developments (more info to come!) instead of spending 8+ hours every day attempting (and failing) to stay on top of the fire hose that has been NIL news. 

Nevertheless, there was still plenty of news for you to read and trends to ponder. Let’s get to it!

THE GOOD

Sarah Fuller, who became the first female athlete to score in a Power 5 football game last season, was featured in a music video by country singer Tenille Townes. The song, “Girl Who Didn’t Care”, is all about young girls dreaming big and breaking down barriers in historically male roles. Fuller is featured alongside a Firefighter and a woman who is training to be an Astronaut. While I’m typically not a fan of country music (sorry, mom), this song is incredibly inspirational and the music video pulls at the heartstrings. I may have sent it to every friend I could think of that has a daughter. 

Aside from my love of this music video, this opportunity for Fuller further brings to light the expansive creative opportunities collegiate athletes now have to monetize their NIL. Over the first month, we’ve seen a lot of traditional deals: Mostly social media endorsements, a few clothing lines, some camps, a couple commercials. However, an athlete being featured in a music video never crossed my mind. We are barely scratching the surface of the different ways that collegiate athletes can take advantage of their NIL and I’m looking forward to continuing to see innovative opportunities!

ON THE WATCH LIST

Quinn Ewers, a 2022 QB committed to Ohio State, has an interesting decision to make in the next week: Does he stay for his senior year of high school and give up at least six figures of NIL endorsements or does he enroll early at Ohio State? 

“I don’t really know, I don’t have a final decision made quite yet,” Ewers told Yahoo! “I’m leaning toward leaving and going up to Ohio, just so I don’t have to deal with UIL [University Interscholastic League] stuff and can get comfortable with Ohio and Columbus and start to learn.”

At the moment, every high school state association except California prohibits high school athletes from monetizing their NIL without jeopardizing their eligibility. However, the NCAA’s interim NIL policy now permits prospects to retain their NCAA eligibility even if they monetize their NIL before college. 

For Ewers, who has over 100,000 followers across his social media platforms, playing his final high school season would mean holding off on endorsements until the end of the year.

“Right now, according to our numbers, if he were a Division I athlete, he would be the 25th-most-marketable player right now,” said Blake Lawrence, the CEO of Opendorse, a company that specializes in athlete marketing, endorsements and NIL rights. “That’s based off the size of his audience, the engagement of his audience. His post value, or what he’d get from one Instagram post, is about $2,500. Twitter is another $500 per post. If he could line up 10 to 15 sponsor deals, he could see his way to a half a million or a million dollars a year in just social media.”

NIL NETWORK INSIGHT: Should he stay or should he go? From an emotional perspective, I hope he stays. He has a final opportunity to lead his team to a state championship, play with his friends, and compete in front of his hometown crowd. The endorsement opportunities will be there when he enrolls early at Ohio State in January. 

However, I wouldn’t blame him for going. I know the “rules are the rules” but I imagine that it’s incredibly tough for him and his family to give up current opportunities just because of his status as a high school athlete. 

If he goes, that’s the second elite athlete that we’ve seen forgo traditional high school in favor of pursuing NIL opportunities. And it’s only been a month. Will this start being the norm for the top 1% of high school athletes? Should the high school associations adopt new rules around NIL to retain these athletes? What are the underlying issues with having football players enroll in college early? 

Top prospects in sports not named football have already been skipping out on high school sports in favor of playing club. This trend will most likely accelerate, especially with the precedence being set right now and prospects from around the country looking on. Also, as collegiate athletes monetizing their NIL becomes the norm over the next few years, I think it will also become the norm for prospects to spend more time developing their personal brand and optimizing their social media in preparation for college. Therefore, more and more prospects will be in a position to make money while still in high school. 

While Ewers will most likely make a decision this week, the high school NIL debate will likely continue for years to come. 

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