The NCAA’s move toward allowing college sports stars to profit off their names, images and likenesses is a moment a long time coming for student athletes – and it will soon jumpstart millions of dollars in brand deals, according to experts.
Brands that had been relegated to the sidelines because of the college sports governing body’s restrictions are now free to make marketing deals with players – as they already are allowed to do with colleges, conferences, coaches, even the NCAA itself.
The NCAA officially made the move on July 1, promising to “open up the coffers of brands across the nation,” Ryan Detert, CEO and founder of the influencer marketing company Influential told AdAge. The company already has deals set to kick off in the second half of this year. The NCAA changes to the so-called “NIL” rules pave the way for millions of dollars in deals – big and small – with marketers of everything from apparel to sports drinks to local businesses like restaurants and car dealerships, bolstering an influencer marketing industry that’s been valued at nearly $14 billion.
“This is a hyper-engaged audience with real talent that’s beyond just taking selfies – they bring true value for a brand and the audience,” Detert said. He notes that the college sports arena has a number of superstars – “unicorns,” as he calls them – on the level of Trevor Lawrence, the former Clemson quarterback who just signed a big rookie contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. “There will be several who will be national darlings, who have a certain following,” he predicts. The NCAA changes give brands access to a more localized audience as well as younger fans who are particularly engaged with college sports.
Earlier this month, Detert’s company announced a partnership with the athlete brand-building and compliance platform INFLCR to help college players navigate the world of endorsements in line with NCAA rules and state and federal laws. It is territory that is loaded with potential legal landmines. For example, an apparel brand’s contract with a given college may forbid players from wearing a rival clothing company’s logo on the playing field in an advertisement but may not have any bearing on what an individual athlete does off-campus.
There is a range of business opportunities set to open to students engaged in all sports – not just football and basketball – including endorsement deals, personal appearances, social posts, clinics and one-on-one lessons with young athletes.
Social media will likely be the most active environment, considering the affinity college athletes and their fans have with platforms like Instagram and TikTok and the massive audiences some college sports stars have built.
Despite the promise of a college sports goldmine, larger brands will more likely take a wait-and-see approach until many questions surrounding the issue of college athletes and marketing are resolved, experts say, though they expect to see some expansive deals with bigger names.
The changes were set in motion when several states – Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and New Mexico – passed legislation allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness beginning July 1.
Ad Council Taps Tuskegee Study Descendants for Vaccine PSA
As COVID-19 vaccination rates plateau across the U.S., the Ad Council has again ramped up its efforts to encourage people to get shots, this time enlisting several descendants of Black Americans who took part in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study to help ease vaccine hesitation in Black communities.
Released last week, ads starring Tuskegee victims’ descendants are an extension of the Ad Council’s major pro-vaccine “It’s Up To You” effort –the largest public service drive in the group’s history. The new ads are created for Black audiences, 22% of whom remain on the fence about getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to Kaiser Family Foundation research.
“In the process of creating multiple campaign elements, what we have heard over and over in the Black community was an overwhelming amount of distrust,” said Kelli Richardson Lawson, founder and CEO of Washington, D.C. creative agency Joy Collective, which helped develop the campaign alongside the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative.
The last survivor of the human experiment at Tuskegee died in 2004. A handful of descendants were invited to tell their ancestors’ stories in the Ad Council’s new short documentary that will also provide the material for a series of 60-second TV spots.
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper, who was most recently behind the “Legacy of Black Wall Street” miniseries, the “It’s Up To You” campaign spots focusing on Tuskegee will run nationwide using 100% donated ad space.
Beyond the documentary-style commercials, the Ad Council will be continuing its efforts of encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations in communities of color with what Michelle Hillman, the nonprofit’s chief campaign development officer, calls “air game and ground game.”
Utilizing everything from town hall events to partnerships with BET to outreach at fraternities and sororities, Hillman said the Ad Council will be “taking this campaign to all the spaces and places where we can reach the Black community,” adding that complementary audio spots for the Tuskegee-related push are also in the works.
In addition to the campaign videos, the Ad Council’s new content can be found at www.GetVaccineAnswers.org/Legacy.
Facebook Launches Bulletin, a Substack Competitor
Facebook is getting into the subscription newsletter game.
It recently launched a new service called Bulletin that allows writers to publish free and paid newsletters that can be posted to the web, sent to subscriber inboxes, and shared across Facebook. Perhaps the biggest perk for now: Facebook says it won’t take a fee from writers “at launch,” and writers retain full ownership of their work and subscriber list.
The new platform is “focused on empowering independent writers, helping them reach new audiences and power their businesses,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a live audio call discussing the launch. At launch, Facebook signed up Malcolm Gladwell, Tan France, and Erin Andrews, among others to cover a range of topics, from sports and finance to science and medicine.
Bulletin is a direct answer to the growing popularity of Substack and other newsletter products. Substack is used by a number of major writers, including Glenn Greenwald and Anne Helen Petersen, and the company has been courting talent with guaranteed payments. Twitter also recently purchased Revue, another newsletter platform, though it hasn’t done very much to integrate it into the social network yet. Substack takes a 10 percent cut of subscriptions, while Revue takes a 5 percent cut.
Zuckerberg says Bulletin is part of Facebook’s mission to continue growing its creator monetization tools. “The goal here across the company is to support eventually millions of people doing creative work,” he said.
Bulletin isn’t accepting signups yet. Facebook has brought on a number of writers for a beta period and says it will add more “over time.” It isn’t currently adding new writers, though.
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» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at email@example.com, follow him @spinsurgeon on Twitter and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.