What is NIL? The Complete Guide for College Athletes.
What is NIL, and what does it mean for the present and future of college athletes?
By Bryan Finck on
NIL refers to the rights of college athletes to monetize and profit from their personal brand, which consists of their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL).
It means that as a college athlete, you can sign sponsorship deals with corporate brands, charge money for autographs, and even create your own brand or ecomm store.
But this wasn’t always allowed, so let’s drop a bit of history.
What it was like before NIL
Since its inception, the NCAA has prohibited student-athletes from earning anything beyond what scholarships provide.
As a student athlete, you couldn’t have a job or receive any monetary or non-monetary compensation.
The penalty for breaking these rules was losing your eligibility—meaning that you wouldn’t be able to continue playing for your school.
How NIL changed the game
With the passing of NIL legislation at the state level, the tide began to turn in the favor of the athletes.
Several states, including Florida, set a date of July 1st, 2021 for NIL legislation to go into effect, making it legal for student-athletes to sign deals.
The NCAA soon passed a rule allowing all college athletes to participate in these deals, regardless of whether your state allowed it by law.
There are essentially four key aspects of NIL:
- Athletes can engage in the activities under NIL rights per the rules of the NCAA and your state, and the schools you attend can only act as a resource for legal and compliance questions.
- Athletes can use professional service providers in the pursuit of NIL activities.This includes companies like Dreamfield that enable athletes to safely and compliantly find NIL deals.
- Student-athletes in states that do not have specific NIL laws can still participate in these deals without violating NCAA regulations.
- Schools and athletic conferences can impose reporting requirements on schools and athletes as they see fit
How NIL deals typically work
No matter where the deal starts, the NIL process has multiple crucial components.
Once you find a deal you want to pursue, both sides will sign a contract that outlines terms, what is expected and what success looks like.
Once you’ve delivered what is expected, you will receive the payment—be it in cash or in-kind payment such as merchandise or apparel.
Compliance is the final component, a crucially important step that must be constantly monitored in order to stay on the right side of the line.
The risks of NIL
This early period of deals is like the Wild West and things are still evolving. As a result, an entire industry has appeared to handle things like:
- Connecting athletes to businesses (and fans)
- Payment processing and accounting
- Legal and compliance
- Branding and marketing
- Social media publishing and management
Every single item above has the potential to cause issues with NIL deals for both sides. For example:
- What happens if you perform a service and don’t get paid?
- What if you post to social media without the disclosures required by the FCC?
This is where platforms like INFLCR and Dreamfield can really help make your life easier. NIL platforms not only help you find and get found for deals but manage the tricky admin work so you don’t have to.
You can go it alone, but you will open yourself up to potential legal and compliance issues and may have to chase down payments.
Where NIL is going
Athletes now hold a significantly larger share of the power than ever before. NIL means that current and future generations of athletes no longer need to choose between pursuing their athletic dreams and making money.
You can now get paid for posting to social media, having an NFT trading card, being featured in ads and commercials, and much more.
Beyond just earning income, you can also use NIL as a way to help social causes and movements like mental health awareness, social justice, and equal rights.
Ready to find and be found for NIL deals? Create a profile on Dreamfield—the NIL marketplace for college athletes. Click here to get started (it’s free).