College life for student-athletes can often feel like a full-time job without the pay. But now that student-athletes can make money off of their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) per the NCAA’s new interim policy, it’s time for student-athletes to finally reap some of the financial benefits for all of their hard work, dedication, and the numerous sacrifices that they’ve had to make to get to where they’re at today.
So, for all of you student-athletes who are eager to make some cash off of your NIL, here’s a crash course on how to succeed as a content creator in the new world of NIL for student-athletes.
1. Familiarize Yourself With NCAA NIL Rules and Your State’s NIL Laws
Before you start thinking about how you’ll spend or invest all the money you’re going to make off of your NIL, it’s crucial to first learn about the NCAA’s interim NIL policy, as well as the particular laws in your state regarding NIL for student-athletes.
The NCAA’s interim NIL policy states that:
· Individuals can engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Colleges and universities may be a resource for state law questions.
· College athletes who attend a school in a state without an NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image and likeness.
· Individuals can use a professional services provider for NIL activities.
· Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.
NIL laws are already in place in 28 states. Some other states like Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island are actively pursuing legislation, too. The reason that this is important is because different states have different rules regarding NIL for student-athletes.
While most of the state bills vary slightly in language, their foundations are made up of the same basic provisions, which state that:
· An athlete’s NIL rights can’t be restricted by schools and conferences.
· Athletes can hire an agent.
· Endorsement deals must be disclosed to the school.
· No prospective athlete can strike NIL deals as recruiting inducements.
However, you still need to be aware of what’s allowed (and what’s not) in your particular state. For example, Mississippi’s bill allows a university to impose limitations on the date and time in which an athlete may participate in NIL events. And in North Carolina, student-athletes aren’t allowed to receive compensation or enter into agreements for use of NIL if the arrangement conflicts with any contract of the institution.
So, do your homework first and make sure that you’re up to date on all of the latest NCAA rules and regulations and state laws. And if you have questions, reach out to your school and ask for guidance so you don’t put your athletic and academic career in jeopardy.
2. Find Your Voice and Begin Building Your Brand
There are two ways to dominate the NIL game. Either be the best student-athlete in your sport or become one of the most engaging and fun content creators on social media.
The first student-athletes who signed endorsement deals and made money off of their NIL were big-name athletes and social media stars. So, if you know you’re not one of the best athletes in the nation, or if you play a sport that doesn’t necessarily have a big following with a lot of fans, start finding your voice and get busy building your brand.
Think about the type of content creator that you’d like to become. Will your posts be silly or serious? Or a mix of silly and serious? What can you offer your followers that others can’t? Is it entertainment value, an inside look at the everyday life of a student-athlete, or something else? What should your audience come to expect from you and your posts? Whatever it is that you decide, make sure that it’s unique and true to you.
3. Learn From The Best In Game
Know the way that you study all of your favorite players’ moves and try to replicate them in practice and games? You can do the same when it comes to finding your social media voice and deciding on your brand’s mission.
Are there brands or people on social media that you just love and constantly watch? Figure out why you’re attracted to that particular brand or social media personality and then try to generate excitement and enthusiasm for your personal brand the same way that they do.
Need somewhere to start? Check out our friends @SoccerGrlProbs. This fun and inspiring brand was created by three former Division 1 Women’s Soccer teammates who created the Twitter handle @SoccerGrlProbs in 2011 to share their inner thoughts and funny moments about the everyday life of a female athlete. Then in February of 2012, they created their first video, ‘Sh*t Soccer Girls Say’ and it got over one million views in three days. Today, SoccerGrlProbs has produced over 140 videos that have accumulated over 23 million views and more than 49 million minutes watched. What initially started as a comedic outlet for these teammates soon became a lifestyle brand.
SoccerGrlProbs now hosts SGP Camps, created SGP University with unique courses, and sells SGP merchandise in their store. They also share lots of quality content on their social media platforms, their blog, and on The Soccer Girl Problems Podcast.
4. Make It Easy For People To Find You and Your Content
You probably noticed that the website and social media handles for SoccerGrlProbs are all the same. So, make sure to buy a domain and create a website for yourself and your brand, and also get the matching social media handles. This way your audience will always know where and how to find you. After all, you can be creating the greatest sports content on the planet, but if no one knows where to find you, does it really matter?
5. Stay Patient
Didn’t get 1,000,000 views on your first video post? Don’t worry. We doubt you hit a home run the first time you ever swung a baseball bat.
It takes time to develop your voice and build your brand. Continue creating funny, informative, and unique sports content on a regular basis and trust that your audience will find you along the way. And when your audience does find you, make sure to engage with them in a sincere and fun way. Let them know just how much you appreciate their continued support, too.
6. Have Thick Skin
Are you allowing trolls or people chirping you in the comment section to throw you off your game? Sure, it’s hard sometimes to tune haters out and stop them from getting the best of you, but rather than silencing your voice or overthinking your posts, view it as a sign of progress. It means that more people are paying attention to you on social media. And as you know, the more people who are paying attention to you, the more views you’re getting. And what does engagement lead to? That’s right… money. So, let the haters hate and laugh at their comments all the way to the bank.
7. Know Your Worth
You’re a marketing department’s dream. Yeah, you! Before the NCAA’s new interim NIL policy, options were somewhat limited for sports marketing departments. They either had to spend a lot of money on high-priced professional athletes to get their messages across or get really creative if they didn’t have a big budget to work with and then hope for the best.
Now, sports marketers can finally incorporate student-athletes into the mix and reach a whole new audience. Student-athletes offer a cost-efficient way for advertisers to get in front of younger audiences like Gen Z. So, there are lots of opportunities out there for you, especially with local businesses in your community. That’s why it’s important to know your worth and understand that you have a lot of value to offer brands, especially if you’re crushing it in the content creation game.
8. Make Sure That All Partnerships Are On-Brand And A Good Fit For You
While you might be a perfect fit for a brand’s target audience, is that brand a good fit for you? Before you just say, ‘Yes!’ and take the money, make sure that you’re aware of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Social Media Endorsement Guidelines.
As an endorser of a product, you can’t make claims about a product that does not reflect your honest opinion and belief, nor one that cannot be substantiated by the brand. If you do that, then you’ll be in violation of FTC rules. So, only really back products that you believe in, as well as ones that are on-brand for you.
9. Protect Yourself and Your Intellectual Property
One of the ways to protect yourself against any potential legal issues or reputational harm is to put together a great corporate and social media legal team. They should also be able to protect your intellectual property, too.
You also need to make sure that you have a good system in place for consistent reporting and disclosure of all your NIL activities. There are content and compliance software platforms out there that can assist you in this new NIL world, but like anything else, make sure to do your research first before you sign up for anything or sign on the dotted line to make an agreement official.
10. Stay True To Yourself and Your Purpose
While this new NIL world is certainly exciting for student-athletes, remember why you’re playing college sports in the first place. Sure, it’d be awesome to make some cash along the way, but you’re at college to get an education and play the sport that you love. As long as you don’t lose sight of that along the way, you’ll be in great shape. So, get out there, have fun, and go make the most of your college experience.