Until recently, college athletes competing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association not only competed in their sports without receiving any financial compensation, other than scholarships, but were also prohibited to financially benefit from licensing the commercial use of their image rights. In June 2021, after years of different legal battles, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled (9-0) in favor of Division I college athletes that the limits on education-related benefits, set by the NCAA, could not be legally enforced, allowing thus NCAA college athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness. 

The right to publicity, which is a right protected by law, gives any individual the exclusive right to license the use of any distinct aspect of their identity for commercial promotion.  Through the use of this right, athletes who were traditionally paid just to compete in their respective sport, could create an extra revenue stream through licensing the use of their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) for commercial purposes. Nowadays the development and commercial exploitation of an athlete’s brand has become an integral part of their career, allowing them to monetize their on-field success in the long term, even after their playing days are over.

The right to commercialize their NIL creates a vast number of opportunities for college athletes to start building and capitalizing on their brand.  As a result, any college athlete can strategically utilize their unique qualities and characteristics in order to build a signature brand that can be monetized in various ways, including product endorsements, attracting sponsorships, merchandising or by just appearing at events.  Carefully building a long-term plan, can help college athletes maximize the benefits from the commercial use of their sports brand.

Despite the vast extent of opportunities NIL brings to both collegiate athletes and the business world, NCAA enforced many restrictions in order to make sure it is not being exploited and misused to minimize the possibility of new scandals. For example, universities and coaches are not allowed to pay collegiate athletes directly for any reason, and are prohibited from using NIL for recruiting.

Despite the positive impact on athletes from the above developments, freeing up NIL opportunities to college athletes needs to be handled with care so that it does not have a negative impact on collegiate sports. Athletes may start to compete with teammates on who earns the most, dismantling teams, and feeding egos. Simultaneously, smaller schools will have slim chances of moving forward since they are in a disadvantageous position in striking big deals and it will thus be harder for them to recruit top ranked athletes. 

As the NIL landscape is unfolding, the Sports Image Rights Expert team is here to help both athletes and colleges in navigating this new landscape in a steadfast manner.  The end goal is optimizing the benefits while minimizing any negative effects on athletes, colleges and collegiate sports, in general.

Our NIL services to college athletes include:

  • Educating student-athletes on their NIL options and assisting them in formulating a suitable marketing strategy to commercialize their personal brand.
  • Advising student-athletes on the legal protection of their NIL along with educating them on the regulatory environment and framework governing NIL contracts.
  • Analyzing athlete-specific reputation risks and preparing individual reputation management plans.
  • Assisting student-athletes in assessing the strength of their athletic brand and helping them create a brand building plan based on their distinct characteristics and values.
  • Offering financial education and empowerment seminars to athletes so as to protect them from making fatal financial decisions which may have a lifelong impact.

Our NIL services to colleges include:

  • Creating educational content and complete financial and NIL education programs and courses for student-athletes on the basis of the holistic model of athlete development.
  • Advising on setting up internal policies and regulations in connection with their students’ NIL commercialization.
  • Advising on new developments in the field and how they can affect the college and its student-athletes.