Jun 9, 2021 - Sports

Partnerships form to help NCAA athletes profit off their likeness

Football player catching a penny

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The name, image and likeness conversation has spent years focusing on a hypothetical future, but with at least five states' NIL legislation set to go live on July 1, that future is finally here.

Why it matters: When you spend so much time focusing on the "when," it's easy to forget the importance of the "how" — money won't magically find its way into athletes' pockets three weeks from now.

Driving the news: Two partnerships were recently announced that will greatly benefit any NCAA student-athlete hoping to profit off their NIL.

  • Twitter and Opendorse — a sports content publisher that helps connect brands with athletes — have partnered in a "revenue-sharing venture to allow college athletes to monetize their content," SI reports (subscription).
  • INFLCR and OpenSponsorship — the former a software company that helps student-athletes publish and track social content, the latter a digital endorsement deals marketplace — have partnered to give athletes and brands a one-stop shop to manage content partnerships, per Sportico.

Details: The partnerships provide similar utility, but not identical; more cousins than siblings.

  • Twitter already runs thousands of ad-supported video campaigns from brands who pay Twitter to distribute their content. Through this partnership, brands can find student-athletes on Opendorse to create that content for them, and their spend (say, $100,000) will be shared among Twitter, Opendorse and the athletes.
  • OpenSponsorship is an existing marketplace that pairs brands with pro athletes, but INFLCR will bring student-athletes into that equation. Athletes can open their INFLCR app, find brands via OpenSponsorship that might be interested in working with them, and make a deal.
"Student athletes have been marginalized. We want them to see the benefits of their NIL. The real winners are the student-athletes."
— David Herman, Twitter's senior sports partner manager

Between the lines: The most critical component to all of this is compliance, and that's where INFLCR and Opendorse's roles are most similar.

  • The NCAA is more than a little nervous about NIL turning into pay-for-play, which is why strict rules are in place governing these athlete-brand partnerships.
  • Both Opendorse and INFLCR will automatically send reports of any deals brokered to the athlete's school, giving the school and athlete peace of mind that they won't get caught up in a compliance nightmare down the road.

Go deeper: What NIL deals in the NAIA can tell us about the market (Forbes)

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