As NIL era arrives, marketing of college athletes is about to become Wild West of sports business world – The Athletic

This is a groundbreaking week in university sports, as athletes can use their so-called name, image and similarity rights (NIL) for the first time. That means they can endorse products, ask for autographs, and even sell a tweet.

“We’re kind of telling the NCAA … we’re not going to stand for the kind of control they want us to be,” said Manny Obesaki, a budding basketball newbie at Texas A&M. “And I think that’s a great move.”

Although Seven states go live with their NIL legalization Thursday. The NCAA Division I Council recommends that until federal law is passed, all college athletes can monetize their rights regardless of their school or state.

And dozens – if not more – of private companies that want to market their services. The software company INFLCR, which supports university sports, is already proposing around a dozen platforms, from the video messaging app Cameo to OpenSponsorship, where student athletes can find companies looking for endorsers and other services from July 1st.

Welcome to the latest iteration of the wild west of the sports business world.

Take Opendorse. By ten, it’s the granddaddy site for connecting athletes with businesses (in addition to offering educational compliance services for schools). As of July 1, Opendorse has no plans to limit the platform to only athletes from the seven states.

“As a company that deals extensively with all the different aspects of monetizing NIL rights on a professional level and in college sports, we are confident that every student athlete will be able to do so on July 1st, regardless of state law To monetize NIL rights, ”said Blake Lawrence, CEO of Opendorse. “By July 1, we would expect 30,000 to 50,000 athletes to use Opendorse to manage NIL activities in a compliant manner. And I think by the end of the first week of July hundreds of thousands of student-athletes could use Opendorse to legally monetize their names and image rights. “

That’s a different approach than Jenloop, the relatively new platform launched by NFL agent Neil Schwartz. Jenloop creates profile pages for athletes and entertainers, and users can pay them to tweet or post an Instagram post (so a Georgia fan on their birthday pays a gamer to tweet them a message).

“Jenloop is the Hallmark version of the 21st century,” said Schwartz, adding that it does not violate the ban on contract agents representing colleagues, as the platform only enables connections between fans, brands and players. In contrast to Opendorse, he only activates sites for athletes in states that have passed NIL laws.

Lewis Cine, a Georgia defensive back, is on Jenloop even though his site isn’t live yet. He has spoken to several other services. “Well, it’s like certain platforms come up and say, ‘Hey, we want to help you out when the rules pass, when we can start,'” Cine said.

Most market platforms are actively working on connections to reach these young athletes. OpenSponsorship, which brings athletes and businesses together, works with marketing agencies to get players to list on its platform. “Of our 8,000 athletes … approximately 65 percent are signed up by agents,” said Ishveen Anand, CEO of OpenSponsorship. “That is why we are already talking to many of our agencies about when they will officially register college athletes and include them in our system.”

How much a non-star college athlete can make on platforms like Jenloop is unclear. The biggest name on Jenloop right now is rapper Waka Flocka Flame, who has 1.8 million Twitter followers and charges $ 1,000 per tweet for fans and $ 2,500 for recommending a product in a tweet. Cine, on the other hand, has fewer than 7,000 followers.

“A player can easily make at least five numbers,” said Schwartz. “Six digits if you apply via your own platform.”

The competition in the market is getting hotter. Lawrence of Opendorse said a competitor whispered that his company was violating NIL rules, which prohibit colleges from arranging the endorsement deal.

“A false story is being spread in the market about how Opendorse delivers technology for space; that sports departments use our software, athletes use our software. And when athletes use our software to monetize their name, image and image rights, the result is … it represents a participation of the school. “

Lawrence, a former Nebraska soccer player, claimed this was not true, as athletes would have to exit the Opendorse education pages that are aligned with schools and then enter the company’s offerings section.

“So instead of letting the market know how our technology actually works and that it’s a completely separate user agreement,” he said. “They just spread the false story that schools couldn’t use this tool. And it’s just not true. “

Although Lawrence wouldn’t name the competitor, he previously argued with INFLCR. INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale and Lawrence battled it out on Twitter on April 27. Cavale wrote: “Anyone like us who is a provider of an institution must not be a marketplace that directly or indirectly earns money with the NIL activities of its customers from students and athletes. “Laurent replied:”Who will advise you on this interpretation? And on which legislation is the interpretation based? “

On Monday, Cavale declined to comment directly on Opendorse but said, “There are three ways you can make money as a business in this NIL area. Track one is from the institution (school). Lane two is from student-athlete transactions. Lane three works with the NCAA … We believe it is a conflict to play in more than one of those lanes based on current state-level legislation and much of the federal-level legislation. “

The passions are great because so much is at stake. Hundreds of thousands of athletes can suddenly market themselves and find themselves in the demographic scene coveted by brands.

These student-athletes are all over the new media and they are all going to Clubhouse (an audio app) and the new stuff, so I think there will be some national branding, ”Anand said. “Because these are the people who move the needle.”

The stakes are equally high for athletes like Obesaki, who want to use the money he earns from NIL for his family. From Oakland, where he was trying for the Nigerian Olympic basketball team (he’s of Nigerian descent), Obesaki said he already had plans for the NIL money.

“I’m really great at just learning how to invest my money,” he said. “Give something to charity, give something back to my family, just take care of them. Because in the end my ultimate goal is to take care of my family and make sure they are well. “

(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

Get full access to exclusive stories.

Subscribe to The Athletic for ad-free, in-depth coverage of your favorite players, teams, leagues and clubs. Try us out for a week.