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  • Matt Farrell

10 NIL Opportunity Areas

Most conversations about Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) jump straight to the transaction, whether it is an autograph signing or a national TV commercial. The thought process can often center on execution details such as how are we going to control, restrict, manage, enforce or comply?


While important factors, concurrently we see the vision of opportunities. Universities and athletic departments already prepare student-athletes for what’s next in their career whether it’s the NBA, WNBA, NFL, NWSL or the workforce. While the shifting landscape of NIL may feel daunting now, there is a path with unlimited opportunities.


Looking at NIL holistically, below are additional benefits:


1. Life Skills Education – NIL creates the opportunity for life skills education specific to the needs of student-athletes. Topics can vary from entrepreneurship, mechanics of a sponsorship deal or public speaking. This complements existing coursework.


2. Health & Wellness – never before has more attention been focused on overall student-athlete well-being in our society. NIL will spur additional education for the whole person, in addition to the athlete.


3. Character Matters – personal brand is a common theme in the context of NIL. Simply put this allows student-athletes to stand out as people as much as their on-field achievements. Character matters more than ever before. It will also provide motivation for prospective student-athletes to be more professional before arriving on campus.


4. Diversity – there is no greater way to celebrate diversity than through our own personalities and skills. Some of the most-known Olympians of all-time are not always the athletes with the most medals. They are the ones who inspired us.


5. Niche Has Power – the NIL spotlight tends to go to star players, but this opens opportunity for targeted offerings such as swim lessons, tennis tips, golf instruction and more from any of the university’s student-athletes.


6. Athlete Voice – the year 2020 is complicated for many reasons, but through it all we have seen a significant growth in the voice of athletes. Not only hearing, but listening, to the athlete voice will make us stronger.


7. Professional Experience – many student-athletes don’t have the opportunity for internships or jobs that prepare them for the workplace if they don’t advance to a professional league. Their non-athlete peers get a head start with years of on-the-job experience as an undergraduate, so NIL opens opportunities to get business experience through corporate relationships or starting their own business.


8. Level the Playing Field – social and digital media are the great equalizers, as being a breakout brand star online doesn’t require the best on-field stats.


9. Raise the Profile of the University – promoting the athlete and the program are not mutually exclusive. Michael Phelps is the most iconic Olympian of all-time with 28 Olympic medals, and he turned that into a great personal business. But his star power also drove youth participation, attendance, tune-in and interest in the sport (even at times with conflicting sponsors to the sport’s governing bodies).


10. Athletic Department Growth – when the athlete wins, the program wins.


While there are still many unsolved topics around NIL, it creates an unprecedented opportunity for student-athletes and athletic departments.


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