What Student-Athletes Need to Know to Maximize NIL
Advancements in Name, Image, and Likeness opportunities for student-athletes are rapidly developing. It is crucial for student-athletes to understand their new rights and how to best take advantage of them. Altius Sports Partners Advisors Malcolm Turner, Jessica Mendoza, and Jené Elzie share their advice for student-athletes to prepare for the upcoming changes.
Tell your story.
Turner, Mendoza, and Elzie agree that one of the biggest opportunities for student-athletes with updated NIL rights is their ability to start building a personal brand. "[Personal brand] is a term that’s thrown around loosely, but in reality, understanding what it means to be a personal brand is a very specific process," explained Elzie. For her, it boils down to one question: How do you best tell your own story? "Every athlete has a story. Those stories aren’t always obvious, but any way you can bring in an athlete’s story and personality to showcase what they’re about is what brands are looking for."
Mendoza noted that this is particularly important for female student-athletes, many of whom reach the pinnacle of their athletic careers in college due to more limited professional athletic opportunities post-graduation. She advises all student-athletes, regardless of gender or sport, to "take advantage of the time you’re in college to get your name and brand out there, not even to make a ton of money, but to utilize the notoriety you have as a student-athlete."
Turner added that the process of building your personal brand with NIL "is an important experience and process that will be applicable for many years to come in a number of different applications well beyond the collegiate experience."
Take advantage of your resources.
In order for student-athletes to tell their stories clearly and effectively, they will need to take advantage of quality information and resources to maximize their personal brands and NIL. In fact, many of these resources are already available at one’s school. Turner advises that "quality of information and informed perspective matters. Play offense and take advantage of the tools and resources available at your institution." Mendoza added, "You’re allowed as a student to take advantage of every opportunity that a school is providing," – academic, athletic, or otherwise. She admonishes student-athletes to consider how their college degree and athletic accomplishments will aid in personal brand development and set them up for their next phase of life.
Furthermore, each student-athlete’s NIL journey will look different. Turner counsels athletes to "focus on the right approach for them rather than the fast one. Walk before you run." Ultimately, by using available and emerging resources to prepare oneself, Turner emphasized that "with the proper investment in readiness to take advantage of opportunities, you will always be ready to strike while the iron is hot and make good on that old saying that ‘luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’"
Treat NIL as a learning experience.
Turner highlighted that "the mission of colleges and universities is to facilitate and accelerate learning experiences that are transformational in and out of the classroom." NIL is yet another opportunity for education and development. The NIL landscape is rapidly evolving, so it is imperative for student-athletes to be adaptable. "It is a very dynamic and fluid environment with NIL, as it is arguably one of the more fundamental shifts that will reshape college athletics," said Turner. "The dust may take some time to settle, so be flexible." Of course, mistakes may occur along the way, but that is all part of the process. "That is an inherent component of education – to try, succeed, and at times fail. In all cases, these present learning opportunities. Capture the lesson."