What Small-Business Owners Need to Know About NIL Sponsorships

The NCAA’s name, image, and likeness policy, known as NIL, allows college athletes to earn money by endorsing or promoting products, services, or brands. Since its implementation in 2021, NIL deals have seen a significant increase, with a 146% growth from 2022 to 2023 according to SponsorUnited, an online platform that tracks sponsorship data.

This policy not only impacts college athletics but also opens up opportunities for smaller businesses to engage in partnerships that were previously out of reach due to the costs associated with big university sponsorships. Robert Boland, a sports law professor at Seton Hall University and attorney at Shumaker law firm specializing in collegiate and professional sports, notes that many athletes are interested in participating in this economy, not just for million-dollar deals.

Here are some important points for small-business owners to consider before investing in NIL partnerships.

NIL agreements often involve social media endorsements, similar to influencer marketing, where athletes collaborate with businesses to promote products. These deals can also include print or TV ads, clinics, meet-and-greets, or autograph signings. Compensation can be in cash or in the form of free or discounted products or services.

While major companies and star athletes receive the most attention in NIL endorsements, data from Opendorse shows that the average deal ranges from $228 to just over $10,000. Various sports beyond NCAA football, such as volleyball, track and field, baseball, and softball, also account for a significant portion of NIL activity. Apparel, footwear, local restaurants, and technology companies are the leading industries for NIL deals, but other businesses can also benefit from partnerships.

Small-business owners who are hesitant to reach out to athletes directly can engage with NIL collectives, which act as marketplaces connecting athletes and companies. These collectives serve as intermediaries to facilitate transactions and handle the financial aspects of deals, ensuring transparency and compliance with regulations.

Regulation of NIL deals currently varies by state and university, with the NCAA prohibiting compensation for athletic performance and deals contingent on university enrollment. The evolving landscape of NIL sponsorships is subject to changes at the state and federal levels, emphasizing the need for strategic approaches and adherence to marketing best practices. Authenticity and alignment with brand values are key considerations for successful partnerships in the NIL space.

The NCAA’s name, image, and likeness (NIL) policy has transformed the landscape of college athletics by allowing athletes to monetize their personal brand through endorsements and promotions. The surge in NIL deals has not only benefited star athletes and major corporations but has also opened doors for smaller businesses to participate in this lucrative market.

While the spotlight often shines on big-name companies and high-profile athletes, the reality is that the average NIL deal falls within a modest range, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. This presents an opportunity for small-business owners to engage in affordable partnerships with athletes across various sports, not just the mainstream ones like football.

One successful example is Brian Quigley, who collaborated with college athletes to promote his mortgage business, resulting in increased brand recognition and community ties. This showcases how NIL deals can be mutually beneficial for businesses and athletes, regardless of their size or visibility.

Navigating the NIL landscape can be daunting for small-business owners, which is why NIL collectives have emerged as valuable facilitators in connecting businesses with interested athletes. These collectives serve as intermediaries, streamlining the process and ensuring fair transactions for both parties involved.

Despite the regulatory challenges and uncertainties surrounding NIL deals, the key for small-business owners is to approach these partnerships with authenticity and intentionality. Understanding the nuances of the policy, engaging in thorough research, and aligning with athletes who share their brand values are crucial steps in maximizing the benefits of NIL sponsorships.

In this rapidly evolving and dynamic market, small-business owners have the opportunity to leverage NIL partnerships to not only promote their products or services but also build lasting connections with their target audience. Ultimately, choosing the right athletes and establishing genuine partnerships will be the cornerstone of success in the ever-changing world of NIL sponsorships.

In recent years, the landscape of college athletics has undergone a significant shift with the introduction of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) sponsorships. This paradigm change has provided student-athletes with the opportunity to monetize their brand and capitalize on their popularity while still in college. However, the impact of NIL sponsorships is not limited to athletes alone – small-business owners can also benefit greatly from this new development. In this article, we will explore what small-business owners need to know about NIL sponsorships and how they can leverage this new marketing platform to grow their brand and reach a wider audience.

Understanding NIL Sponsorships

NIL sponsorships allow college athletes to earn money by partnering with brands and companies to promote their products or services. This means that student-athletes can now sign endorsement deals, appear in advertisements, and promote products on their social media platforms – all while maintaining their NCAA eligibility. For small-business owners, this opens up a unique opportunity to collaborate with college athletes and tap into their loyal fan base.

Benefits of NIL Sponsorships for Small-Business Owners

1. Increased Visibility: By partnering with college athletes, small-business owners can increase their brand visibility and reach a wider audience. Athletes often have a large following on social media platforms, which can help small businesses gain exposure and attract new customers.

2. Targeted Marketing: College athletes typically have a specific target demographic that aligns with many small businesses. By collaborating with athletes whose followers match their target market, small-business owners can create more effective marketing campaigns and drive sales.

3. Authenticity: Athletes are seen as role models by many of their fans, and their recommendations carry weight. By partnering with college athletes, small businesses can leverage the authenticity and credibility of these athletes to promote their products or services.

4. Community Engagement: NIL sponsorships allow small-business owners to connect with their local community by supporting college athletes from nearby universities. This can help businesses build a positive reputation and strengthen their relationship with customers.

5. Cost-Effective Marketing: Collaborating with college athletes can be a cost-effective marketing strategy for small businesses, especially compared to traditional advertising methods. By leveraging the social media presence of athletes, businesses can reach a large audience at a fraction of the cost.

Tips for Small-Business Owners Interested in NIL Sponsorships

1. Research Potential Partners: Before reaching out to college athletes for sponsorship opportunities, small-business owners should research potential partners to ensure they align with their brand values and target audience. Look for athletes whose followers match your ideal customer profile to maximize the impact of the partnership.

2. Establish Clear Expectations: When negotiating a sponsorship deal with college athletes, small-business owners should clearly outline their expectations regarding the scope of the partnership, deliverables, and compensation. This will help avoid any misunderstandings and ensure a successful collaboration.

3. Create Engaging Content: To maximize the impact of an NIL sponsorship, small-business owners should work with athletes to create engaging and authentic content that resonates with their audience. This can include social media posts, blog articles, videos, or in-person appearances.

4. Measure ROI: It’s important for small-business owners to track the success of their NIL sponsorships by measuring key performance indicators such as website traffic, social media engagement, and sales. This will help businesses assess the effectiveness of their partnerships and make data-driven decisions for future collaborations.

In conclusion, NIL sponsorships present a unique opportunity for small-business owners to increase brand visibility, target specific demographics, and engage with their local community. By partnering with college athletes, small businesses can leverage the authenticity and credibility of these athletes to create impactful marketing campaigns and grow their customer base. With careful research, clear communication, and creative content creation, small-business owners can harness the power of NIL sponsorships to take their brand to the next level.

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