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The Nascent Name, Image, and Likeness Industry: Creation of the Perfect Storm

by michelle
Published: Updated:

The Development of the Nascent Name, Image, and Likeness Industry

A Brief History, Current Issues, And Where We’re Headed

(this is Part 1 of a 4-part series examining the lead up to NIL, emerging trends and issues over the past year, where this is headed, and how NIL Network can help)

Picture of By Michelle Meyer

By Michelle Meyer


Part 1: Creating The Perfect Storm

As a former D1 volleyball coach, I founded NIL Network in the fall of 2020 because I saw that name, image, and likeness reform was coming to collegiate athletics the following year and, unfortunately, it was on a trajectory to create a chaotic landscape that could result in collegiate athletes, once again, getting the short end of the stick.

In an attempt to alleviate some of the chaos, I spent the next two years creating industry databases, tracking university NIL offerings & partnerships, and aggregating educational materials and/or informative articles. 

Alongside NIL Network, I accepted the NIL Coordinator position at San Diego State University in November of 2021, making myself one of the first hires in the country for a name, image, and likeness specific role in an athletic department. 

Now, with almost a year under my belt observing this developing industry from both the administrative and business perspective, the key issues and concerns are becoming more clear.

This series will explore how the lead up to name, image, and likeness reform, emerging trends and issues over the past year, projections for where we’re headed, and how NIL Network is striving to better this evolving industry. 

The Perfect Storm Was Created.

I started NIL Network to address a major concern of mine: Nobody, aside from a handful of savvy entrepreneurs, was preparing for NIL to come to college sports. 

It was coming, in some capacity, the following summer when Florida’s NIL bill was slated to go into effect.

Yet nobody was preparing for it. 

It was inevitable that this was going to be the biggest change to college sports since Title IX and could impact half a million college athletes.

Yet nobody was preparing for it. 

It was projected that NIL reform would almost immediately create a billion dollar industry in one of the most sought after career fields. In other words, this presented an “opportunity of a lifetime” for many: Owning a business in a new and rapidly developing sector of sports.

Additionally, the barriers to entry were minimal: Start-up costs could be bootstrapped, there were barely any enforceable regulatory requirements, and brand loyalty was yet to be earned. 

Yet nobody was preparing for it. 

Without an understanding of what was coming or any guidance, the nearly 500,000 college athletes that were about to gain their NIL rights were positioned to be taken advantage of.

Even at the highest levels of professional sports, where the barrier to entry to engage with athletes is high and heavily regulated, where the pros have unlimited access to guidance, education, and resources, there are STILL countless awful stories of professional athletes getting manipulated by the people they trusted most. 

This ugly aspect of the pro sports world was about to have a massive new market to engage with – but instead of professional athletes with unlimited resources, this new market would be full of freshly minted adults, with minimal resources to assist them, and no safeguards in place to protect them.  

On top of that, college athletes (actually, people in general) have never been more accessible. Due to social media, getting in contact with anyone is just a DM away. These 18-22 year olds, excited to explore their new opportunities, were going to have numerous companies sliding into their DMs, pitching their services, gaining their trust, and sending them over legally binding contracts for signature.

What could possibly go wrong.

Read Part 2: The Chaotic Rollout Of NIL Reform

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