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NIL Deal 101: A Step-by-Step Guide

by michelle
Published: Updated:

The passage of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) legislation has opened new opportunities for college athletes to earn significant income through signing an NIL deal. However, understanding the ins and outs of sponsorships and endorsements  can be confusing for college athletes. In this guide, we provide recommendations for the before, during, and after of an NIL deal.

Phase 1: Preparation For NIL Deals

Before college athletes begin exploring opportunities to monetize their NIL, they should take the following steps to prepare:

Building A Personal Brand

To monetize their NIL rights, college athletes must first establish a strong personal brand. This means developing a reputation as a hardworking, dedicated athlete with a positive image. 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.

Developing A NIL Strategy

Once an athlete has established their personal brand, they should develop a NIL strategy that outlines their goals, target audience, and potential income streams. This will help them identify the types of NIL deals that align with their personal brand and goals.

Vetting Service Providers

College athletes should also research and vet potential service providers, such as agents, attorneys, and marketing firms, that can help them navigate the NIL rights process. It’s important for athletes to work with professionals who have experience in the sports industry and understand the legal and financial considerations of NIL deals.

Sourcing NIL Deal Opportunities

College athletes should analyze their audience to understand what types of brands would be interested in partnering with them for NIL deals. Once they understand their value, athletes can proactively seek out NIL deals through intentional outreach and networking events. Local businesses, and especially restaurants around campus, are typically the easiest to get the first NIL deal.

Phase 2: Operation of The “Business”

Once college athletes have prepared and sourced NIL opportunities, they should take the following steps to operate their NIL business:

Evaluating NIL Deal Offers

College athletes should carefully evaluate any offers they receive for NIL deals, considering factors such as earning potential, duration of the deal, and the rights required. It is also advantageous to think about how the athlete’s audience will react to their deal activation. Will they engage with the content? Will they be annoyed or worse, lose interest in following the athlete?

Negotiating Terms of the NIL Deal

College athletes should work with an attorney or agent to negotiate the terms of any NIL deals they sign, including compensation, rights, and length of the deal.

Deciphering Contracts

College athletes should also take the time to fully understand the contracts they’re signing, including any fine print and legal language. 

Adhering to Policies/Laws

College athletes need to make sure their NIL deal complies with the NCAA interim NIL policy, their university’s institutional policy, and their state NIL law (if applicable). Additionally, they need to adhere to the FTC guidelines for sponsorships and advertisements.


Phase 3: Growing & Protecting Assets

After a college athlete has secured a NIL deal, they should take the following steps to grow and protect their assets:

Financial Literacy

College athletes should educate themselves on personal finance and budgeting to ensure that they are making the most of their NIL earnings.

Filing Taxes

College athletes should also consult with a tax professional to ensure that they are properly reporting and paying taxes on their NIL earnings.

Long-Term Goal Setting

College athletes should also set long-term goals for their NIL business and develop a plan to continue monetizing their personal brand after their college career is over.

In conclusion, monetizing your name, image, and likeness as a college athlete is a process that requires planning, strategy, and knowledge. By following these steps, college athletes can take advantage of NIL opportunities and make the most of their personal brand. It’s important to understand the legal considerations, regulations and to work with professionals in order to navigate this process.

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