Student Athletes Gain NIL Rights

By: Jake Weaver, Assistant Account Executive

As of July 1st, 2021, the NCAA ruled that student-athletes were eligible to profit from their own Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). Instead of penalizing student-athletes for the smallest level of compensation, the NCAA is allowing individuals to capitalize on their brand. This leads to an opportunity within the advertising field for brands to expand their endorsement opportunities. Brands, both big and small, and student-athletes can benefit from strategic partnerships. Below are a few items to consider regarding NIL partnerships:


1. The brand and student-athlete should be aligned on the message.

Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most popular athletes turned spokespersons in history. While TV consumers may think that he is in The General Insurance commercials for an extra paycheck, that is not the case. While a student at LSU, The General was the only auto insurance company that would insure him when he bought his first car. Thirty years later, the two parties still have a thriving business relationship.

When Rayniah Jones, hurdling star at the University of Central Florida, entered her partnership with Addition Financial, she let the community know why. “I partnered with Addition Financial because I think it’s important for college students to start learning about managing their finances responsibly. Through this partnership, I’m most excited to shed light on financial literacy for other students and help them learn these habits from a young age,” said Jones. Brand and endorser being united on the core message is key to having a successful partnership.


2. Know your audience.

When most people think about athlete-endorsed advertising campaigns, some immediate partnerships come to mind like Chris Paul and State Farm Insurance, Peyton Manning and Nationwide, or Roger Federer and Rolex. While these campaigns are successful on a global scale, college athletes provide a unique opportunity for smaller businesses to have endorsements on a local level. College-athletes are often celebrities in their local community. Take Josh Paschal, edge rusher at the University of Kentucky; nationally he wasn’t known outside of die-hard college football circles, but in Lexington, Kentucky, Paschal is a star. This made him a valuable endorser for Steckler Pediatric Dentistry, as he starred in their local commercial. Likewise, Jordan Bohannon, sharpshooter from the University of Iowa’s men’s basketball team, partners with Iowa Boomin Fireworks by attending live events and auctioning off autographed memorabilia. Local fame can be used to engage local communities in live events or sweepstakes to increase awareness and in-person interactions.

National campaigns are also relevant amongst the most notable student-athlete stars and college programs. Bryce Young, quarterback for the University of Alabama, endorses Cash App alongside notable NFL quarterbacks. Paige Bueckers, from the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, was the first student-athlete to sign an endorsement deal with Gatorade. Student-athletes like Young and Bueckers, who are undoubtedly popular in their local college communities, are also nationally recognized because they excel at the highest level of their respective sports for historic programs. This allows them to be valuable partners for brands aiming for a larger reach.

3. How to invest

Bryce Young is likely one of the top selections in the 2023 NFL Draft and he is represented by Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which represents athletes, award-winning actors and actresses, TV personalities, and notable businesspeople. Other student-athletes utilize readily available platforms like Cameo or JenLoop to coordinate with brands regarding posts on social media channels with costs ranging from $10 to $500 per post on either Instagram or Twitter. According to Opendorse, the average NIL compensation per student-athlete in Division I is $664.00, making this a reasonable investment for most businesses.

Former star quarterbacks McKenzie Milton and D’Eriq King are co-founders of DreamField, a company that coordinates and provides guidance for both brands and athletes regarding NIL deals. The advertising industry now must coordinate strategy with representation, talent, and brand to find partnerships that serve all parties involved.


Name, Image, and Likeness deals will continue to evolve over time. As an industry, we will learn more about the strategy, regulation, and trends surrounding them. It is a new opportunity to explore that can help businesses forge new relationships and grow their business on a local and national level.



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