Casey Schwab on Bleav in Sports Law Podcast
Altius Sports Partners Founder + CEO Casey Schwab joined Jeremy Evans on the Bleav in Sports Law Podcast to discuss NIL, proposed regulations, and potential for the impending NIL market.
The following interview excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jeremy Evans: Talk a bit about the potential of the NIL market and the realities of it. I think on the extreme spectrum, we think it’s a million, billion dollar market and everybody is going to make money. Can you talk about, in your opinion, where you think it’s going to end up?
Casey Schwab: I put it into three buckets, generally. The first one is a very small percentage of student-athletes who are going to make six-figure deals like we see with folks like Lamar Jackson, or Pat Mahomes, or Lebron, or any major athlete that you see being an endorser for a product long-term. I think that’s a very small percentage. Those are the Zion, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields of the world. For female student-athletes, I think there will be opportunities for them that are specific to women. I actually think this is a great thing for gender equity when it comes to empowering young women to go out and monetize their NIL. There will be a few, both men and women, in the small category of six-figure deals of endorsers. You think of the Baker Mayfield Progressive commercials that are hilarious. But those are going to be few and far between. That’s bucket one. I think there needs to be a sober, realistic expectation that those are going to be few and far between.
The second bucket are the three- to four-figure deals in the thousands, but maybe not in the tens-of-thousands. Those are going to be coming from more regional, localized businesses. For example, a car dealership, the mall, a local country club that’s hosting a charity event. If you think about where a lot of these universities sit, student-athletes are the celebrities of the town. Think about Baton Rouge, Austin, Tuscaloosa, Oxford, Ann Arbor, Madison, the list goes on. I think in those places there will be some opportunities for meet-and-greets or autograph signings for a lot of student-athletes, men and women. But I don’t think those are necessarily five-figure deals.
Then you have the third bucket, which is the social media and in-kind deals. For example, an athleisure company hits up an athlete through DM on Instagram and says, “We’ll send you three pairs of our leggings and tops if you post three times over the next two months.” Or in-kind deals, like the offensive line is eating at the local steakhouse and the manager says, “You guys had a great game. I’ll comp your meal if you take a picture with me so I can hang it above the host stand. Maybe you guys post it on social media and give us some love.” That’s income. For the tax nerds like me, that’s income, getting comped meals.
So those are the three buckets. I think in terms of percentages, the first bucket is going to be very small, the second will be a little bit bigger, and the third bucket is going to be the biggest. I see most of these deals coming as in-kind deals, meaning you get free stuff, you get free food, or even a free pass to a gym.
JE: I love that. It’s great we broke it down into three categories like that. In some sense, that’s okay, because if it’s a free market system, some athletes are going to make more than others, but at least there’s availability for all athletes to do it. I was reading a great article about cheerleading, and how it’s not considered an NCAA sport and how cheerleaders for years have been making money and doing in-kind deals. I think it’s going to be fascinating to see what businesses partner up with students and see where it goes.
CS: Yeah, and that’s nothing to scoff at, getting free stuff as an 18- to 22-year-old college student. Getting free stuff and a few hundred bucks here and there is valuable.
The last thing I would say is about treating NIL deals like a job interview. This is a way for student-athletes to build their careers. A lot of student-athletes are entrepreneurs, and they have their own podcasts or businesses on the side like making t-shirts or being DJs. I think being able to leverage NIL to meet people in the industry they want to work in, whether that’s banking or being a DJ, to meet people, to show up on time, to know their names, to shake their hands, it’s like a free way to get a job interview. Thinking about NIL not just in terms of brand building but career building is a mantra that we have. Take ASP Advisor Jessica Mendoza, for example. She was a phenomenal collegiate athlete, four-time All-American, and Olympic Gold medalist. And what did she do? She turned that into a life-long career, and now she’s breaking glass ceilings on ESPN calling World Series games as a woman. How did she do that? She leveraged her playing career and turned that into a business career. She’s a perfect example of what these student-athletes can do, even more so when they’ll be able to go out and do NIL deals.
JE: I agree. I think NIL opens up so many opportunities, and from an education and real-world aspect, it prepares folks for even bigger opportunities, whether it be in business or taking your athletic career and turning it into a broadcasting career.
Listen to the full interview here.