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Home Basics of NIL Name, Image, and Likeness: A Beginner’s Guide

Name, Image, and Likeness: A Beginner’s Guide

by michelle
Published: Updated:

The NCAA’s reform of Name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights is the biggest change to college sports since Title 9. Now that college athletes to profit off their own fame, many student-athletes are wondering how they can monetize their personal brand and take advantage of their new NIL opportunities.

In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of NIL deals available to college athletes, as well as the legal considerations and potential earning power associated with NIL rights. We’ll also discuss the importance of building a strong personal brand and setting realistic expectations when it comes to monetizing your name, image, and likeness.

Understanding Name, Image, and Likeness Rights

Name, image, and likeness rights refer to the ability of an individual to control and profit from the use of their name, image, and likeness in various forms of media, including advertising, merchandise, and video games. These rights have historically been associated with professional athletes and celebrities, but now college athletes also are able to monetize their NIL rights.

The NCAA had long prohibited college athletes from profiting off their own fame, but that changed on July 1, 2021 when the NCAA updated Bylaw 12.

The Factors that Caused Name, Image, and Likeness Reform

There are three overarching factors that led to NIL rights for college athletes.

DEVELOPMENT OF GIG ECONOMY: The gig economy, where individuals are their own bosses, has changed the landscape for the typical “college job”. Now, college students can use platforms to easily pursue entrepreneurship and profit off their unique abilities. Before NIL reform, college athletes would need a waiver from the NCAA to participate in the gig economy while the rest of their non-athlete peers had no restrictions. And college athletes are proving to be quite talented outside their sport! For example, Wisconsin volleyball athlete, Danielle Hart, manages her online store and sells beautiful art.

RISE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: Social media has changed every facet of society, including how businesses and brands advertise. Now, brands budget significant marketing dollars towards partnering with individuals with a large following to promote their products or services. This industry, “influencer marketing”, has grown from $3 billion to $16.4 billion in the last five years. College athletes, especially in revenue generating sports, can have massive platforms with highly engaged audiences. Before name, image, and likeness rights, monetizing their social media accounts would’ve deemed them ineligible to compete in the NCAA.

NCAA LAWSUITS: Over the past decade, there have been a number of high profile cases brought by athletes against the NCAA. The biggest one, O’Bannon vs NCAA, significantly increased awareness of the NCAA’s injustices. When that case was settled in 2014, the general public started understanding not only the rights that athletes have to waive to compete in the NCAA, but also the significant and ever-increasing revenue that the NCAA brought in year after year.

Types of Name, Image, and Likeness Deals

There are several different types of NIL deals that college athletes can explore. Some of the most common include:

  • Sponsorships: Athletes can sign sponsorship deals with companies to promote their products or services. Sponsorships can take many forms, such as product placement, logo placement, or social media promotion.
  • Endorsements: Athletes can lend their name and image to a product or service in exchange for compensation. This can include traditional advertising such as print or TV commercials, social media posts, or product placement. Endorsement deals are typically for a specific product or service.
  • Social Media Marketing: Athletes can work with brands to promote products or services through their social media channels.
  • Personal Appearances: Athletes can make appearances at events and speak engagements, and be compensated for their time.

Legal Considerations

While the NIL landscape is still evolving and laws vary state to state, there are some legal considerations that college athletes should keep in mind when exploring NIL opportunities.

  • NCAA & Institutional Regulations: Even though the NCAA now allows college athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness, there are still regulations. Athletes need to be familiar with NIL interim policy and their university’s NIL policy to ensure that any NIL deals they sign comply with them.
  • Intellectual Property Rights: Athletes need to be careful to ensure that they are not signing away their intellectual property rights when they agree to NIL deals. They should also be aware of limitations to how they can use the intellectual property of their university, such as wearing their logo, for their NIL deliverables. 
  • Contract Negotiations: Athletes should be familiar with the basics of contract negotiations and should work with an attorney or agent to review any NIL deals before signing them.

Building a Strong Personal Brand

In order to take advantage of NIL opportunities, college athletes need to have a strong personal brand. This means developing a reputation as a hardworking, dedicated athlete with a positive image.

Reputation Management:

Reputation management is the practice of monitoring, identifying, and influencing an individual’s or an organization’s reputation. Athletes can build their reputation by participating in community service, staying out of legal trouble, and being a positive role model both on and off the field. They should also be mindful of their behavior on social media, as anything they post can have an impact on their reputation.

It is strongly advised that athletes complete an audit of their social media platforms before engaging in their first NIL deal.

Content Creation:

Creating high-quality content such as videos, photos, and blog posts can also help athletes build their personal brand. They can use these platforms to showcase their talents, share their experiences, and connect with fans.

Networking:

Networking is also an important part of building a personal brand. Athletes should seek out opportunities to connect with other athletes, coaches, and professionals in their field. They can also attend events and conferences to meet people in the industry and learn more about the business of sports.

Setting Realistic Expectations of Name, Image, and Likeness Opportunities

It’s crucial for college athletes to set realistic expectations when it comes to monetizing their name, image, and likeness. Not all athletes will have the same earning potential, and they should understand that NIL opportunities may not always be available on demand.

Athletes should also be aware that not all NIL deals are created equal. Some may offer more earning potential than others, and some may be more restrictive in terms of the rights they require the athlete to sign away.

Conclusion

Name, image, and likeness rights offer college athletes the opportunity to monetize their personal brand and take advantage of a variety of NIL deals. However, it’s important for athletes to understand the legal considerations and regulations surrounding NIL rights and to build a strong personal brand. Athletes should also set realistic expectations and be mindful of the terms and conditions of any NIL deals they sign.

FAQ: Quick Hitters of Name, Image, and Likeness

College athletes can monetize their name, image, and likeness through a variety of deals such as sponsorships, endorsements, social media marketing, and personal appearances.

College athletes should be aware of NCAA regulations, institutional policies, state NIL laws, intellectual property rights, and contract negotiations when exploring NIL opportunities.

Athletes can build a strong personal brand by participating in community service, staying out of legal trouble, being a positive role model, creating high-quality content, networking, and managing their reputation.

College athletes should be aware that not all athletes have the same earning potential and that NIL opportunities may not always be available. They should also be mindful of the terms and conditions of any NIL deals they sign and consider the earning potential of each opportunity before signing.

Not all college athletes will have the same earning potential when it comes to monetizing their name, image, and likeness. Factors such as the athlete’s level of fame, sport popularity, and location may play a role in the availability and potential earning of NIL opportunities. However, most college athletes can earn NIL compensation if they work hard at it.

The NCAA’s decision to allow college athletes to monetize their name, image, and likeness changed their amateur status. However, athletes need to understand and adhere to the NCAA’s interim NIL rules, such as the requirement to perform an action for NIL compensation, to ensure that they remain eligible.

Yes, college athletes can have an agent to represent them in NIL contract negotiations. In fact, it’s recommended that college athletes work with a reputable attorney or agent to review any NIL deals before signing them, as they can provide valuable guidance and advice on legal considerations and the terms of the contract. 

The earning potential of NIL rights can vary greatly depending on the athlete’s level of fame, sport popularity, location, and the type of NIL deals available. Some athletes may be able to make a significant amount of money through sponsorships, endorsements, and personal appearances, while others may not have as many opportunities.

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