The Development of the Nascent Name, Image, and Likeness Industry
A Brief History, Current Issues, And Where We’re Headed
(this is Part 4 of a 4-part series examining the lead up to NIL policy reform, emerging trends and issues over the past year, where this is headed, and how NIL Network can help)
Part 4: The Current NIL Predicament and How to Cut Through The Noise
The formation of the perfect storm, chaotic rollout of NIL, and the unfortunate reality of bad actors currently in the industry has created a skeptical landscape that is inhibiting athlete success and industry growth.
College Athletes Don’t Know Who To Trust.
Whether they are misplacing their trust in a smooth talking “agent” or are too apprehensive to respond to a legitimate NIL service provider that wants to help them, college athletes are not well positioned to make decisions about what companies would be beneficial for them to work with.
To be fair, nobody is well equipped to make these decisions.
In the past two years, I’ve tracked over 400 NIL businesses that work directly with college athletes. Yet, at least half of the time when an athlete shows me a DM from a company, I have never heard of them. I imagine that there are well over a thousand NIL startups currently operating in this industry and because 90%+ of them have launched in the past year or two, not many have a proven track record or reputation to research.
Utilizing the resources, expertise, and connections of an NIL service provider will increase opportunities, both in volume of deals and in overall compensation. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, it will offload a huge amount of work from an already time-strapped college athlete. However, as long as they’re overwhelmed with options and can’t understand who is trustworthy, these services will continue to be underutilized.
Athletics Administrators are Busy, Skeptical, and Restricted.
At this time, only about 10% of D1 universities have a full-time NIL administrator.
But for the other 90% of athletic departments, “NIL duties” have been assigned to a staff member that already has a full plate of other assignments and priorities. They simply do not have time to research the complexities of this industry, meet with every NIL startup that emails, or understand exactly what is helpful for their athletes.
Many NIL service providers have quickly learned that working through an athletic department, even if not in a formal partnership, is a much more efficient way to scale than onboarding individual athletes through direct messages.
On the administrator side, in turn, they are inundated with emails, LinkedIn messages, and phone calls requesting a “quick meeting” to “tell you about how our model makes it easier than ever for ALL of your athletes to monetize their NIL.. and the best part? It’s FREE!”.
With the pitches using such similar messaging and the presented business models not making any business sense (gentle reminder that *free* is not a sustainable model), administrators are incredibly skeptical.
Finally, administrators are restricted in what they can put in front of their athletes for a few reasons:
- Liability: By putting a service provider in front of their athletes, the university is essentially “endorsing” the business. Should the company turn out to not be legitimate, the school may be wrapped into a lawsuit.
- Too Many Options: They don’t want to overwhelm their athletes with options and cause confusion. Admins are already asking their athletes to be on a plethora of platforms, apps, and websites to manage their academic schedules, advisor meetings, and compliance reporting. Introducing multiple NIL companies without a clear intention and strategy will inevitably confuse (and potentially annoy!) a university’s athletes.
- No Objective Criteria: They don’t have processes in place for how, when, and who to introduce to their athletes. While this one may seem silly, the more objective and process oriented admins can be, the less scrutiny they will get.
For better or worse, a lot of athletics administrators are defaulting to inaction when it comes to engaging with NIL service providers that could help their athletes. It is by far the easier and more comfortable road to take: they save time, avoid potential liability (i.e. losing their job), and don’t risk confusing their athletes.
Reputable NIL Companies Are Struggling To Gain Credibility & Differentiate Themselves.
As most NIL service providers are startups, they are having an incredibly difficult time proving to both athletes and admins that they are trustworthy and adhere to honest and fair business practices. They don’t yet have many testimonials, case studies, and/or enough data to demonstrate their successes.
Reputable NIL companies are not willing to extrapolate the truth (or just flat out lie) like some of their seedy competitors are happy to do. They are stuck in this awkward space of not yet being able to prove their trustworthiness, but having an unwillingness to compromise their values (thankfully!), and then are seeing their unethical competitors get out ahead. They are incredibly frustrated. I don’t blame them.
In the past year, I’ve had countless meetings with service providers that have expressed this exact conundrum and are desperate for a solution to differentiate themselves from the bad actors that have no issues making empty promises to secure business.
The Solution: Introducing NIL Verified™ and the NIL Verified Network.
I’m excited to officially announce the launch of NIL Verified™ and creation of the NIL Verified Network.
After two years of monitoring the NIL industry, tracking all trends and developments, and having thousands of conversations, I finally am confident that NIL Verified and the ensuing network of credible businesses is exactly what NIL Network was created for and how it can best serve this developing industry.
My original goal, after all, was to contribute to the smooth transition into this new era of collegiate sports. I wanted to create a resource that would make a positive impact.
My hope is that NIL Verified can be an invaluable tool for thousands of athletes, hundreds of administrators, and all of the credible and trustworthy businesses providing much needed NIL services.
About NIL Verified™
NIL Verified™, developed in partnership with attorney Patrick Stubblefield (former Director of Compliance at Oklahoma and current partner with Freeman | Lovell), is an NIL business verification process. NIL Verified™ aggregates information about a company’s business registration, employees, business practices, compliance of NIL laws/NCAA interim policy/institutional policies, and a review of their contract terms to ensure they include all of the expected contract clauses and fair language for their clients.
The NIL Verified Network is a membership program made up of service providers that successfully pass the NIL Verified requirements. These companies will receive an NIL Verified report to share, marketing support through the NIL Network website, newsletter, and social media accounts, and access to ongoing education opportunities.
The goal of the network is to support, amplify, and grow the businesses that prioritize athletes and are contributing to the development of a transparent industry.
Preliminary discussions about this program have gotten overwhelming support from both NIL admins and NIL businesses about the necessity and value it could bring to athletes, administrators, and credible companies.
Because of this, the NIL Verified Network has launched with 8 initial NIL Verified businesses.
Questions about NIL Verified or how your business can become part of the trusted network? Schedule a time here.