NCAA rules and state law now allow student-athletes to earn money from sponsorship deals, and a few are cashing in big time.
CALIFORNIA, USA — This story was originally published by CalMatters.
Shortly after starting college last fall, Fresno State equestrian Yasmin Roman found out from her school’s athletic department that she could get endorsement deals on a platform called Opendorse, which connects companies to athletes. Roman signed up early in the spring, excited to offset some of the costs associated with being an out-of-state student in an expensive sport. Since then she’s earned $30 on a paid Instagram story for a food delivery service on the app.
On the other side of the spectrum are players like UCLA quarterback Chase Griffin, who has leveraged a fanbase of 30,000 followers on Instagram to sign deals with major brands such as Discord, Duffl, Degree Deodorant, Clearcover Car Insurance and Shell.
Student-athletes in California have only been able to profit off their name, image, and likeness — known as NIL — since new NCAA rules and a state law took effect last year, but such agreements are already evolving into an estimated $500 million dollar market nationally. Some California colleges are offering financial education designed to prepare athletes to navigate the new landscape. Advocates for the training say it can facilitate further deals, get more athletes to participate, and help athletes avoid agreements that can cost them money in the long run.
Roman, for example, still has questions that her college’s staff haven’t answered: How can she garner interest from companies while playing a sport that doesn’t attract as big an audience as football or basketball? And how should she know if a deal is worth her time, or how to negotiate a contract?
“It’s definitely still a learning curve, and I’m still working through it to see what kind of opportunities there are for me to make some money throughout my sport,” she said.
Specialized training can help answer those questions for the roughly 500,000 student-athletes who participate in the NCAA, said Rashad Campbell, a partner at Team Altemus, a consulting firm that provides education on NIL and financial literacy to Division I programs including San Diego State and Ohio State.
“The sooner we can educate, the sooner we can make this a real thing, the better off everybody will be,” Campbell said.
Colleges try to fill the gap
While the most lucrative NIL deals earn headlines, most are more humble, according to Opendorse and INFLCR, another company that connects athletes to brands. From July 1 to the end of 2021, INFLCR said its median transaction value was $51. Football players brought in the most endorsement dollars on Opendorse from …….