All About NIL

The ramifications of name, image & likeness regulations for higher ed institutions large and small.

By: Higher Voltage
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Not long ago, you could play a video game licensed by the NCAA featuring the likenesses of real-life college football players, complete with their names, jersey numbers, and digitally rendered facial features. The popular game profited the NCAA and the players’ institutions, but the players, themselves, saw none of the proceeds because NCAA athletes were forbidden from receiving any compensation or incentive related to their status as college athletes.

A lot has changed since then. The NCAA stopped producing the NCAA Football game in 2013 due to legal battles over player likenesses, and last summer the Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA could not restrict ‘education-related benefits,’ cracking open the door for student-athletes to benefit financially from the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL, for short). Direct pay-for-play is still banned, and regulations vary by state, but schools and athletes at all levels of play are cashing in, from getting big-name product endorsements to merely running youth sport camps.  

On the latest Higher Voltage, host Kevin Tyler is joined by Jon McBride, the associate athletic director for communications and media strategy at BYU, and Teresa Valerio Parrot, founder and principal of TVP Communications, to discuss the implications of the new NIL landscape for student athletes and their institutions, large and small.

  • An Overview of NIL and the perceived pros/cons associated with this rule (4:48)
  • The impact of merging the brand of the student and the brand of the institution (15:06)
  • The vulnerability the institution’s brand faces when relying on student brand ambassadors (20:36)
  • How the NIL policies impact smaller schools that lack the resources and recognition to compete in this space (27:36)
  • What lessons can colleges use to improve current programs or launch future programs across campus (35:52)
  • How the NIL rules potentially distort the college selection process for student athletes (38:33)
  • The future landscape of NIL in 2022 (43:07)
  • Final thoughts on the importance of educating student athletes and setting them up for success (46:59)

References and additional readings:

Read the full transcript:

Kevin Tyler:
Hello, and welcome to Higher Voltage, a podcast about higher education that explores what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change in higher ed marketing and administration. I’m your host, Kevin Tyler.

Kevin Tyler:
I know I say this all the time about every topic we have on Higher Voltage. But this one I am very, very excited about because lots of reasons. One, I don’t really know all that much about it. So I’m really excited to learn from the two guests we have today. But also, it’s a very, very topical, relevant, and timely topic that people are talking about right now. And that is NIL, name, image, and likeness.

Kevin Tyler:
We’re going to talk about this from a couple of different perspectives. I’m so, so pleased to have Teresa Valerio Parrot back with us. You’ll recall that she joined us for the leadership conversation. We had a few months ago, college presidents and navigating those tricky waters. She’s back today to share her expertise and insights on NIL. We also have Jon McBride from Brigham Young University, and I’d like for both of them to introduce themselves briefly now. Jon, we’ll start with you.

Jon McBride:
Sure. Thanks, Kevin. Really excited to be here and to speak with you and Teresa. This is a super exciting topic. And really I made the move over at BYU from central communications to athletic communications one year ago. And I think it came at a really interesting time for me when a lot of rumors were swirling about NIL and what would happen. And then finally, July 1st hit this last year and we got something concrete there. But basically, my whole career has been in social and digital marketing communications, and specifically in influencer relations, and leveraging micro influence, working with street teams, doing takeover series. So really, I’ve always been interested in this element of individuals speaking for a brand, leveraging that individual influence to be able to speak for a brand. And there’s always been this conversation surrounding humanizing brand communications, where my perspective is always well, let’s use a human to actually humanize it.

Jon McBride:
Right now with NIL, man, there’s a lot of opportunities to do that. And I’m sure we’ll get into that conversation, but my role at BYU right now is associate athletic director over communications and media strategies. So managing a team, doing more foundational communication necessities, and media relations, and website management, but also working with our social team and doing the team communication side for all of our individual intercollegiate sports. But now this whole new world opening up for my staff and I of being kind of these social and branding consultants for student athletes, which has been a lot of fun. A lot of opportunities and challenges. And yeah, excited to be where we are right now.

Kevin Tyler:
Awesome. Thanks so much, Jon. Teresa, give it a go.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Hello. Happy New Year, Kevin. It’s nice to see you again and nice to talk with you, Jon. I am Teresa Valerio Parrot. I am Principal of TVP Communications, and I work on communications and leadership issue used to be honest, only with institutions of higher education. So I was at the University of Colorado for a decade, and we had some issues come up on the policy side of intercollegiate athletics. And to be honest, I feel that this has been a thread throughout my career, intercollegiate athletics from a policy standpoint. If you aren’t paying attention to that part of institution, you should. And this is a passion project for me, athletics is.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
As many people know, I am probably the most uncoordinated person they will ever meet. So when I say I have a passion for intercollegiate athletics, I think that surprises them. But of course I take it from a policy standpoint, so that makes much more sense.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And about two years ago, because everybody was so tired of hearing me talk about this, I had a number of people who said, “Why don’t you write a dissertation?” And I think it was a snark comment, but I took it seriously. So here I am. I will have my dissertation defense this spring, and next year will be defending the intersection of governance in intercollegiate athletics for presidents and boards. So that’s my interest in the topic.

Kevin Tyler:
Well first of all, congratulations on the dissertation. This is awesome.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Too soon for congratulations, but I’ll take the good vibes.

Kevin Tyler:
Deciding to do it to me as a victory in and of itself. So that’s just where I stand. I am not working on dissertations, so I think it’s pretty remarkable. All right. So thanks for those brief introductions. I have my beverages, I have my coffee, and I have my water. I have my pen and my paper. I am ready to learn because this is going to be a great conversation. I’m wondering if we could start super briefly with just a quick and dirty definition of NIL. And then if each of you can just kind of explain from where you sit, some of the pros and cons that exist because of it.

Jon McBride:
Sure. And as we kind of mentioned, both of us will approach these from different angles. So Teresa can talk about the more policy side. I’ll talk about the more student athlete side.

Jon McBride:
So NIL standing for name, image, and likeness. July 1st, the NCAA said, “Okay, you can go for it. And you can monetize now your name, image, and likeness,” which is pretty groundbreaking really looking at the history of the NCAA and how much money there has been in intercollegiate sports historically, and how little of it student athletes get ultimately outside of scholarships, and books, and laptops, and things.

Jon McBride:
So monetizing name, image, and likeness, it’s a game changer. We can see that in traditional sponsorships, like we’ve seen with professional athletes forever from your local car dealership and that traditional billboard or TV commercial, but also monetizing social influence and social capital. So we’re seeing sponsorship happening through social channels. Everything from a sponsored tweet to a tag in an Instagram story. And then there’s in-person type elements where student athletes can be paid for an appearance or an autograph even, which was something historically that couldn’t be done.

Jon McBride:
So really opening the door for these student athletes to make some money, to set them up financially for the long term. And we can talk about some ways we’ve tried to do that at BYU as we go throughout today in some different ways. But really, what you mentioned pros and cons Kevin, and there are some for sure. And it’s been interesting to see the perceived pros and cons from the outside. And also some of the pros and cons we’re seeing internally.

Jon McBride:
But right from the very beginning, it was interesting that our football coach was concerned with, in professional sports, if you look at professional football, you’ve got each player signing a contract, right? So you’ve got your quarterback who’s making a bunch of money. And as offensive linemen, aren’t really making as much money, but they still have a contract that’s tied to their worth as a member of that team. With NIL, there’s a concern early on that your quarterback’s going to all of a sudden be making a six figure endorsement, and your offensive line isn’t going to get anything. And what’s that going to do for locker room issues? What’s that going to do for morale? That that’s a real con, really to look at the dynamics that can happen internally when you’ve got some players making a lot, some players making none. And when you look at team dynamics of an offensive line having to protect that quarterback, there’s issues there.

Jon McBride:
But overall, I think the pros outweigh the cons. I think another con is just again from an internal perspective, with the amount of support and bandwidth that it’s taking from athletic departments to offer support, and help, and looking at compliance details to make sure this is happening the right way. There really is some bandwidth that this is taking, and it’s kind of everyone’s job in our department. This isn’t just a communications thing for me and my team. We actually created a new associate athletic director role simply for a student athlete experience where we lump a lot of that NIL stuff under. But it’s a new world. It’s an exciting world. And again, I think the pros outweigh the cons. But it’s taking some real time and effort to be able to do this right and to support the student athletes for them to do it right.

Kevin Tyler:
I think that’s excellent insight. Thank you, Jon. Teresa, what’s your view on the pros and cons?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
I think when I think of about the pros and cons, the most obvious one that I see from a policy and from a legal standpoint, because there have been many cases that have gone all the way to the Supreme Court that have kind of talked about this. And the original founding of the NCAA was really talking about making sure that we’re preserving that amateur status of college athletes. So if you go all the way back to 1905 and 1906, that’s where we were. And we’re still there. And, I would say that this better reflects where we already are, and that we’re past that ideal. So we continue to hold onto the romanticism of what athletics could be, and what this amateurism could mean. We’re not there, and we haven’t been there. And actually, we never were there. So to reflect where we are and what this can look like, I think that name, image, likeness makes a lot of sense.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
I also think that there is this perception that this is different than the mission of higher education, right? And there’s this intersection of where intercollegiate athletics shifts purpose and intent. And I think the counter to that would always be that the student athlete focus hasn’t always been a reality for a number of institutions. So as much as we talk about that purity of sport, I think we need to be thinking a little bit more strategically about where have student athletes been experiencing athletics for some institutions, and what does that mean? How have institutions included them or not?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And one of the pros and cons that I watch very carefully is there’s been this concern about what this will mean for Title IX. Will this start to create some inequity? And what I would say is I think that we have underestimated the want of women’s sport and athletics in this country. We see the options for women to really own a brand, and for people to want to follow women’s athletics. And we need to allow that to grow. To say that we’re concerned about this means we need to be watching for it, but we shouldn’t assume that it happens, and we shouldn’t assume what viewership in support of women athletes might mean.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And I think there is this interesting way that we should be kind of watching what has already happened. If we want to think about where women have already been monetizing sport in a way is look to cheerleading. I know that this is going to sound silly to many, but cheerleading is not a sport according to the NCAA, it is a spirit activity. So cheerleaders for years have been bucking this trend and have been able to get endorsements for a number of different things. Whether it’s social media posts to its products, to apparel, etc. And some of the largest influencers that we have had traditionally on college campuses have been cheerleaders.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So we have a way to be thinking about this, and there doesn’t have to be a downside to thinking about this as only being an opportunity for male athletes. I think instead, it’s making that option available to more and seeing where some of these initial contracts are getting signed and supported.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
I think we have some interesting examples that we can point to. So historically, if we look at cheerleaders, as I mentioned, I think we can now start to look at where gymnasts are starting to come into this as well. And then I think we have some softball players, etc. We have the ways in which we are layering in women’s soccer, and we’re layering in other sports that we need to not just be looking at this as a limitation, but instead an opportunity for our women athletes as well.

Jon McBride:
I can definitely speak to that for my experience as well here at BYU. Our student athletes who are the most prime to monetize social channels was actually our women’s basketball team. Our star player on the women’s basketball team has 500,000 followers on her YouTube channel. This is pre-NIL, right? And other players on the team have kind of hopped into that, started their own YouTube accounts. Big on TikTok. At practice, they’re doing a dance and a coordinated three point shot type thing. They were primed for this. That star player since NIL has entered into a number of NIL deals, has also launched her own clothing line. And it’s been really interesting to follow. It’s been absolutely amazing and a really good use case for us here. And I think something that could be applied across collegiate athletics.

Jon McBride:
It’s really interesting. July 1st, we had a couple football players. We saw this throughout the country that just put out a tweet, “Hey, Wingstop come at me,” or something. “I’m here, pay me money.” And then once they kind of figured out, “I’ve got to put in as much work as Shaylee Gonzales does on our women’s basketball team to create an actual vlog,” to spend time editing video and making things look this good and curated. That’s been a really interesting learning curve to watch here is that it’s not enough just to have a social account and you’re going to get paid. But there really is a reward for taking the time and effort to build an intentional social community, that that’s going to have a lot of trust there that will translate into buying power eventually. But to your point Teresa, women’s athletics I think in large part is prime to take advantage of this in a number of ways, and we’re seeing it here at BYU, for sure.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And I would hope that that would have spillover to how we’re thinking about women’s sports and the promotion of them moving forward, right? If this is what we’re starting to sign, and this is where I’m seeing … there was just an article about a female lacrosse player who hosted a camp, and what she was able to do. And I think that there are the ways for us to think about where have institutions historically made money or left money on the table. And how can our student athletes be thinking about what those opportunities are now?

Kevin Tyler:
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Kevin Tyler:
This is completely fascinating to me, and all of your conversation throughout all of your discussion, some questions have surfaced. And I’m not going to ask them all at once. I do want to move to the next question, because the point that you both are raising leads directly into it. And that is as these students build their brand, these student athletes build their brand, or even enter the educational experience with a brand already, it seems as though there is this merging of two brands, right? The brand of the institution, and the brand of the student athlete. And I’m curious what your takes are on what the impact of that merger can be. And I’m particularly interested in how the brand of the student stays healthy, and what the ramifications are of something bad happening to the student. Or, do people get treated equally, right? This person has 500,000 followers. There’s a balance of power of shift, right? I’m curious about all of those things. Do those questions make sense?

Jon McBride:
Yeah, I’ve definitely got some thoughts, and I think this is going to lead to a policy question to Teresa and what she’s seeing here. But this idea of merging brand and personal social profiles has been really interesting here. And it’s been interesting to see how different states have actually put legislation of how where the rubber meets the road, how those brands can legally connect, right?

Jon McBride:
So here in Utah, no NIL legislation on the books. We’re one of the states without that, which really for us has been kind of nice to have an open playground to be able to work with on this. But still, there is this friction and this idea. And the NCAA hasn’t given a ton of guidance here, but one of the guidelines that they’ve shared relates to this, right? The branding, and use of facilities, and logos, and things like that. There’s been multiple touchpoints, and I might need Teresa’s help on how all of that falls down. But initially, our own guidelines for student athletes was you cannot use the BYU logo in a sponsored tweet or an NIL visual capital. That can’t be on campus in facilities either. That needs to be at a park off campus. You need to be wearing generic clothing, non-BYU related.

Jon McBride:
But then credit to our corporate sponsorship team and our student athlete development, associate athletic director, where they came together and said, “Well, let’s incentivize our student athletes to be able to work with our existing corporate sponsors. And we’re actually going to let them use the logo if they do an NIL deal with an existing corporate sponsor.” And that was actually some real friction early on. College athletics, for years, we’ve been beholden on these corporate sponsors who are giving a significant amount of money. What happens all of a sudden when a corporate sponsored university says, “Instead of us giving you $200,000 for this sponsorship, we’re actually just going to work straight with the athlete,” right? That takes away some real-

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And potentially for a lot less money.

Jon McBride:
Oh, for sure. They can leverage that for less money as well. So we’ve tried to be intentional where, “Okay, we’re actually going to give you the rights to use the logo if you work with an existing corporate sponsor.” And then it’s kind of a rising tide lifts all boats kind of thing. But that is something that different schools are approaching very differently. How you can, in a visual sense leverage your own athletic brand at your own institution in the actual visual capital that you’re using. So that’s something that’s been different at different universities.

Jon McBride:
But I think your broader question Kevin, there is some cache for these ultra high level athletes, college football or basketball players who are at the top blue blood program. Of course there’s an inferred value and inherent value that you don’t need to see Bryce Young from Alabama with an Alabama jersey on. You know that that’s a Heisman winner anyway. So I think that gets to kind of the overall question there. But when you look at the nitty gritty and how this comes about in the actual posts that are on social media, that’s been really interesting to navigate on our end.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And I think it’s important for us just to be honest with each other, that institutions have always taken advantage of, right? And it’s supported in other ways, through scholarships, etc. But taken advantage of the social capital and the political capital that student athletes bring with them. And now what we’re seeing is that students for the first time have the ability to decouple themselves from the institution, or to stay connected.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So this really means to me that the relationships that we build with our student athletes are that much more important, because they can choose to play with us or not. And the way in which we’ve used their reputation and their capital, we now have to acknowledge in different ways. And it means that the retention of these student athletes is that much more important, because they have an audience that isn’t reliant upon us. And they can take their 5 million viewers, and they can go somewhere else, and they can continue to have that education and the financing that they’ve been able to cultivate.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So I think it really has institutions think, should have institutions thinking more carefully, “What am I doing to retain my student athletes?” And going back to what Jon said before, I think this is a moment for us to think about how we’re providing resources to our student athletes, and how we’re helping them to navigate this. Because if we help them thread that needle, we have a better chance of keeping them and keeping them associated with the institution’s accounts rather than choosing that decouple approach.

Kevin Tyler:
Okay. So I feel you on all of this. I’m going to play devil’s advocate for just a hot second.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
There’s so many devils advocates in this room, bring it.

Kevin Tyler:
I can’t help, but think about the ways in which a brand becomes more vulnerable by having these kinds of engagements. Right? So the point that you raise is a good one Teresa about the retention piece of a student athlete. One could argue that on a lot of college campuses, the strongest retention strategies are the ones that student athletes get, right? The scholarships, the facilities, all the other things that come with your participation in these high level sports. If something doesn’t go right in a student athlete’s experience, and they decide to transfer or use their platform to say disparaging things about the brand, what then?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Sure that has always existed. And I think you can go back to March Madness and how the women talked about their experience. Go back to how the media reports how our student athletes are doing in our communities. Right? Think about the ways that our student athletes have always been brand ambassadors that are held to a higher standard than our general students. They’ve always had that platform to talk about how they feel they’re being treated or they’re not. Talk about resources, talk about experiences. I hope they’ve had freedoms to talk about how their coaches have treated them, etc.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So I name some lightning rod players, as well as coaches, as well as programs. And we have things that come to mind, because we associate something with them. That has always existed. The difference is we now are calling it for what it is, that money has been made off of this, and by whom.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So that’s always existed. And I think if institutions are now just paying attention to what can this mean for our brands because they’re worried about losing the brand, right? They have not been paying attention to how they could and should have been working with, and treating, and leveraging those relationships with their student athletes.

Jon McBride:
100%. And to play devil’s advocate to your devil’s advocate Kevin-

Kevin Tyler:
Oh my God, double devil’s advocate.

Jon McBride:
I think NIL might actually incentivize student athletes to, back to that last conversation. To couple themselves with the brand better, because it’s going to be better off for them monetarily. And that’s actually part of our conversation. The beginning of every athletic season, my team over athletic communications, we’re in charge of doing some media training. Where historically that had been kind of here’s how to do an interview with ESPN at halftime, and here’s some dos and don’ts about social media, and super simple stuff. This year, that evolved incredibly into a lot more intentional and strategic kind of ways to brand yourself. And that ESPN interview, that radio interview that we’re going to call you about, all of that goes into playing into your brand. And the way that you talk about yourself, the way that you talk about your teammates, your coach, your institution, that all becomes a part of that brand that you’re going to be able to monetize. So you do want to be intentional. And of course you want to be authentic, and we’re not telling anyone you can’t share frustration, or problems, or issues. But in the way that you choose to do that, it’s going to come back to what your brand is and how other brands may or may not want to partner with you.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So I’m going to touch on something that Jon said, and then I’m going to go super geeky with us for a second if that’s okay. So here’s that part. And Jon, I think part of those resources that I’m hoping are occurring is that we have the opportunity now. We’ve talked about how once student athletes choose to go professional, they kind of lose sense of their money, and their finances, and people take advantage of them, etc. This is an opportunity for us to think about what resources can we provide now to ground these student athletes now? So that if and when they get to that different point, they have some knowledge behind them. And for any student who is looking at any NIL opportunities, I say this all the time, my husband knows I shake my fists. And I say, “Please tell me somebody is talking to these student athletes about taxes on all of this as well,” right? “So it’s great that you’re getting that new truck and you’re going to be the sponsor of the local Ford dealership. Please tell me somebody’s talking to you about what the tax implications of that is.”

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So I think there are some opportunities for us to be giving some of these, we’ve always talked about offering some additional courses and some resources to student athletes as it pertains to their experiences as student athletes. And we need to be thinking about how do we layer in what that moment needs now. And I think that includes what Jon’s talking about and I’m talking about is there is this how do you think about your own brand and your own preservation of your career trajectory? And also, how do you think about financially how that’s going to work and what those considerations are? So there’s a whole bunch of different pieces that I think we have an opportunity for.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
But, here’s my geekiness. I’m going to completely change gears for a second. I think that there is this opportunity for us to talk about where does this come from. We had in the 1980s where institutions sued the NCAA, because they felt as if in Regents v. NCAA, they felt as if the NCAA was getting a disproportionate amount of money tied to intercollegiate athletics. So if that happened in the ’80s and that set some of the case standard for how we’re now talking about, what does that mean for student athletes?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So there was this moment where we were only talking about Madden football, right? We only were talking about video games. We only were talking about if you can sell your old jerseys and what does that mean? And I think that really shifted into this bigger conversation through some cases to the Supreme Court, about what does this mean for brand, right? That true name, image, likeness, because NIL really is tied to those roots with video games and some other options to really, what does this mean about me representing myself holistically?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So I think I just wanted to add those little nuggets in there that we talk about this as if it is just about students and athletic departments. This is about institutions. This is about conferences. This is about the NCAA. And there is case law around this that has built and brought us to this moment. So just wanted that nerdy plug.

Kevin Tyler:
Geeks are always welcome here, and nerdy plugs. Okay. So those were some really great points. I want to shift gears just to touch. Again, I did a bunch of reading preparing for this conversation. And oftentimes, the names and brands of the schools I ran into felt like the usual suspects. The Ohio States, the Arkansas, Nebraska. Large athletic programs, primarily talking about the football opportunities with NIL. But these are the ones that typically have the infrastructure to stand up programming around the NIL laws, incorporating other programs into the experience. So taking law students to help out with contracts, and taking marketing students to help out with brand marketing, etc. But there are a bunch of smaller schools in the country who might not have this kind of infrastructure. So I’m wondering if the NIL policies exacerbate that kind of have and have nots that we currently see in higher ed, and/or how do smaller schools compete in this space?

Jon McBride:
Yeah. I think initially, I’m seeing what you’re seeing, Kevin. It seems to be the programs that do have the resources and bandwidth to be able to tackle this are being able to provide their student athletes with some more guidance, and resources, and support, and they’re benefiting off of this.

Jon McBride:
Like Teresa has touched on, we are still in such the early stages of this. And it really is the wild west. And a big part for me is in this overall is that we need to figure out what the ROI is and what the market really values first. And that’s going to take a little bit of time for the market to sort out what this is all worth.

Jon McBride:
But in that interim and how this moves forward, I think my prediction is that we’re going to see more student athletes figure this out together. And what I would see at smaller schools, and what we’ve kind of seen here, and what was interesting feedback early on from our women’s basketball team actually, the ones who were the most primed. They said, “Hey, can we actually put together,” something that we’re calling now, we’re calling the BYU Influencer Hub.

Jon McBride:
So we’re bringing together those high level student athletes on the women’s basketball team. A couple football guys, a couple basketball guys. Actually a couple of golf players who are really invested in building their brand. We’re trying to bring together people who really, really care about this and want to invest the time and effort. And really, they want to talk to each other, and they want to network and figure out how to do this together.

Jon McBride:
I think that’s probably the best way forward for a lot of smaller schools is yeah, maybe you don’t have someone full-time there or a class to enroll in. But what we’ve seen throughout social media marketing is it’s the digital natives. It’s the people who are on the ground floor who are going to figure out the trends. They’re going to figure out the ways to work with the algorithm. They’re going to figure out the best kind of things that the older people aren’t going to figure out anyway. So what I would see at smaller schools is more athletes working together, kind of figuring this out together. And I think that can have some success for sure.

Jon McBride:
I totally appreciate your points there. I’m curious about, I mean the smaller schools benefit so much greater from a brand coming in who has a 500,000 followers, or an audience of hundreds of thousands. It just changes the playing field for those schools in such a way. Well, in more the same ways that it already has been in an unlevel playing field. And I’m trying to keep in mind what transpires in the recruitment process, knowing that you can’t use NIL as an inducement, and knowing that there are states with laws and those without. And that there’s a bunch of different kind of markets for this.

Jon McBride:
The states that aren’t really set up well for this, the schools inside those states, whether they’re small or big are going to have a hard time competing. Right? And it just feels like for some of these student athletes, understanding that there are 480, 500,000 athletes that fall under this purview. Now 480, possibly 500,000 brands. It just feels like the smaller schools just don’t get a fair shake. But I just wanted to lay that on the table. Teresa, please go.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Yeah, but I think they’ve always struggled in that same kind of a way, right? A D3 program getting its partnerships, it’s corporate partnerships, they’re struggling in ways that big programs aren’t. And they really have to tie it to their community and they have to tie it to their authenticity as programs. And for them, it is a little bit more about the purity of the sport. So if that’s the case, what are those opportunities that better align with how you’re offering athletics, and what your students are looking to get from it? So I think that’s key. And that goes back to the example that I gave about lacrosse camps, right?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
If you think about what can happen with camps and lessons and how that can be monetized, ESPN this summer had a really great interactive that said, “Here are the different options that student athletes have.” And it was social media, camps and lessons, starting a business, and then additional endorsements. And there is this real way for student athletes to think through holistically how have institutions made money off of student athletes? And then how can I be a part of that?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So for that D3 student, it might feel more genuine to them to go home over the summer to their hometown where they’re known and to say, “I’m going to offer a lacrosse camp. Here’s what I’m going to do over this summer.” So I think it’s to get to why are student athletes participating for the sport, for the glory? What is it that they’re in for? And I think that gets back to the root of how you recruit. When you recruit a student, you have to get into the what do they want to get out of their experience? And I think this becomes another layer in that discussion with the student athlete and their family.

Jon McBride:
And something we haven’t really addressed yet is that out of those 480,000 students, a lot of them don’t really care about this, right? And you’ve got to recognize that. We were really interested here in doing that initial training and saying, “Hey, here’s some things to think about if you want more. If you want to be a part of this influencer hub, if you want a one-on-one meeting with a member of our staff to talk about your brand, let us know.” For a lot of them who are already to taking a full load of courses or are thinking about law school or medical school, the amount of work that it takes to perform at a high level as an intercollegiate athlete is a lot. Some of them don’t feel like they have the bandwidth to put in the time and effort for an ROI for them personally, to come from this as well. So I think for a lot of them in the recruitment stage, NIL maybe won’t be a factor. For a lot of high level athletes, NIL will definitely be a factor.

Kevin Tyler:
I think that is an excellent point. I think it’s very easy to think that every single one of these student athletes is going to want to go after these huge contracts. And let’s be clear, it’s not always about money, right? You get apparel and other kinds of benefits that aren’t always cash, cash money, as my dad used to say. So there are lots of different ways that this can unfold or be executed. And I really appreciate you raising that point Jon, that not every single athlete is going to be after these opportunities.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Even that apparel, make sure for that apparel, that you’re still thinking about taxes, right? The implication is not just about the cash money. It’s about the vehicles, and the apparel, and those really cool sneakers you now have. All of that has a monetary value. So I think there is some education still to be had. And I think to Jon’s point, I think we’re going to have to have at least a year or two behind us to get through a cycle of everything from endorsements and businesses because there’s a student athlete I saw who has an Airbnb. Did you see this at Oregon?

Jon McBride:
Yes. Division Street?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Pretty awesome. Yeah. So he has a themed house if you’re going to rent it to go to an Oregon game, right? You have that business, startup, entrepreneurial spirit through those that do camps and lessons, etc. So there’s this big swath of opportunities that we’re talking about, and we’re going to have to go through a couple of cycles to figure out what this is and what it isn’t. And to be honest, what’s allowed and what isn’t. Because I think we’re seeing some of those questions being raised now based on what those initial contracts and agreements look like.

Kevin Tyler:
I am quite intrigued by the economy that will rise out of some of these things. One of the things, I mean you brought it up just now Teresa about these programs, right? This idea that we’ve hired a person that’s going to be like the brand manager, like the brand consultant for these athletes, and got these programs stood up. And I think it’s really interesting because historically and traditionally, higher ed is seen as very antiquated, very slow to adjust and evolve. But here we are with these really forward thinking programs that are specifically related to the NIL. But we don’t have that same kind of urgency and creativity when it comes to some of the other programs that are needed on campuses. And I’m curious if higher ed can use this time and this issue as a model for how to provide the things students say they need, even if it doesn’t bring riches and awareness to the campus or to the campus brand. Is there something that can be learned that colleges and universities can learn about the ways that they stood up these programs that they can apply to other areas of the campus?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Absolutely. And I think if they’re not paying attention to that, what are we all doing? So I think the one thing that I would say is this felt very fast. Yet we’ve had years. These cases have been going through the courts for years. This conversation has been happening for years. So I can appreciate that these programs were launched. But for a number of institutions, they’ve been thinking about this for quite a while.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And I think we have a similar runway for some of our academic programs that are seeing a potential loss or a real loss of revenue as it happens. And I think there is this way to say how do we start to think about this?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Here’s the rub, Kevin. How do we start to think about this from a business sense, right? How do we start to think about this in a way that we’re taking away the emotion, and the history, and all of those sorts of pieces? So we talked in the early part about the purity of sport. And we need to be thinking about how do we retain our institutions and keep as much of the purity of academicness and experience? But we have to be cognizant of and thinking about all of this in a business sense. And I think that’s where we’re getting the pushback and we’re getting the number of different people at various levels and places who don’t want to have that conversation.

Jon McBride:
Yeah. I think this is such a good question, Kevin. And I think something that we all smiled about and have worked in higher ed long enough to know just how slowly wheels turn. And I think you’re exactly right that this showed us how quickly things can work. And I think we saw this through the pandemic too, right? We had to move to remote instruction so quickly. And I think it’s another use case in the past few years that when institutions want to move fast, they can move fast. But man-

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And I think it’s moving fast because you see that the money is moving away from you. And what I would say is and we should be thinking about tuition in some ways-

Kevin Tyler:
Right, because that is money too.

Jon McBride:
Yeah.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Yes.

Kevin Tyler:
Awesome. So I stumbled upon a site. It was referenced in a recent Washington Post article. The National College Players Association has developed a ratings system that gives states a score of 0 to 100 based on the amount of freedom the laws have for student athletes in that state. So student athletes can go onto the site and look at the states that they’re looking at their schools, and check out whether or not those NIL laws will allow them to get the kinds of benefits that they want.

Kevin Tyler:
I am curious from your perspective knowing that not all of the students are going to go after this, I’m wondering if there’s some sort of distortion around what higher ed is for. I mean, I get it. People play athletics or get into athletics for lots of different reasons. For purity of the sport, for glory, for the win, also for a career. So it just feels kind of interesting to me to have a site dedicated to ranking state laws about the benefits of NIL and having people choose based on that. It’s not my business. I mean, I didn’t play athletics in college. Former, I played club. But it feels like it changes the conversation around a couple of things around higher ed. Am I off base?

Jon McBride:
I think it’s another thing that could distract recruits or anyone surrounding NIL. I think what we talked about at the beginning of pros and cons, it can be a distraction. But it can also be a mobilizing, empowering thing for a student athlete, especially for someone who comes out of poverty and has an opportunity to really set themselves up financially for a long time without having to brave those extremely low odds of making it professionally and getting a professional contract. When you look at those percentages, right? Of how many high school athletes become college athletes, how many college athletes become pro athletes. Man, college athletics is a mobilizing and a huge opportunity for so many student athletes to set themselves up for the rest of their lives. I think this is a new way to do that.

Jon McBride:
And so I think certainly focusing on NIL in the right way can be powerful. But yeah, it can be a distraction. And it can be a motivation to get into this that isn’t 100%, maybe the best thing. I can certainly see in the future a potential recruit only interested in how much money they can make on an NIL deal, and choosing a school for that purpose, and getting in a bad position. I’m sure those use cases will happen, but again, that’s another one of those things. And in this next year or two, we’re going to have to see how the market sorts it out.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
I think I just want to go back to something that I think is so critically important. We’ll have outliers, but I think student athletes already kind of take those risks, right? That they’re not going to get hurt, that they are going to supported, that they are going to be set up for that professional career if that’s their trajectory. This allows all student athletes to be looking at this a little bit more holistically about what can this mean for them if they choose to participate. But I think we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about why. Why are we having this conversation? Right? And at the early parts of the pandemic, there was a New York Times article. And it said that the football alone pre-pandemic contracts were worth a combined $1.4 billion. Right? Right? And that didn’t include the conference-specific network revenues. And that’s multi-year, don’t get me wrong. As we’re talking about this, let’s talk about the money that’s being made.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And then I think the other conversation that we should be talking about longer term is very few athletic departments make money in a year. So if some of their money that they are making for those few that are making it is tied to the name, image, likeness of their students that they have been able to retain, what is going to happen to athletic departments writ large now that they’ve lost some of their leverage and their ability to make some of these deals and to have some of these partnerships? Because these are moving student side.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So if we had X number of institutions, small number that were making money, I think that number’s going to go down. And as we look at how much institutions overall have been losing every year, that dollar amount is going to go up potentially. So I think there is this what will this mean for athletics longer term? And here’s part of why they held on so tight for so long.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
Whether that 1.4 billion, which does not go to the institutions directly, right? That’s negotiated through the NCAA. What is this going to mean for the NCAA? What is this going to mean for the institutions? And then let’s follow how this shakes out for the student athletes as well. It’s a business.

Kevin Tyler:
It most certainly is. So we’re at the top of 2022. Hopefully there aren’t any, based on the last couple of years, we should be on track to have some sort of alien invasion, whatever. If that doesn’t happen, what are some of the things that you’re going to keep watch out for in terms of NIL this year? What are you waiting to see happen? What do you expect to see happen? What are you nervous to see happen? I’m just curious what the landscape looks like looking forward.

Jon McBride:
Internally, I think I’ve hinted toward this, but really seeing how many student athletes are willing to enter the space in a really serious manner is something I’m interested in. Because that’s also going to determine how much bandwidth and resources that we allocate for this in our department. Right? If we have these 50 student athletes who are the cream of the crop, who are going to go all in on this. And the other 400 are saying, “It’s not really worth my time. I’m just going to focus on school and sports.” Well, that’s going to be different than if those other 400 athletes are saying, “Well, maybe if I put a little bit more effort in, I get a little bit more of a reward than if we’re going to have to provide resources and education that way.” That’s something I’m curious on. And then the ROI on the other side for the businesses is what I’m really curious to see as well.

Jon McBride:
We had some really unique NIL deals here at BYU where we offered team NIL deals, right? Or an external business came in and offered a deal. The first one was for all of our walk-on football players, which got some huge national media. The ROI on that, we ran some numbers internally. Just the day one social analytic equivalencies to what you would pay for paid social on that was 10 times the amount of money that it was paying, even paying $6,000 each for an NIL deal for 32 walk-ons and then 3,000 for the rest of the football. The amount of value in advertising and marketing dollars that came back was astronomical. We won’t see that with every single NIL deal, but seeing it for that one was instructive. But I think that, just seeing how the market responds, and the two sides of that coin. How the market responds and how much willingness our own student athletes have to enter into the game. Those are I think the two big things I’m looking for.

Kevin Tyler:
Teresa, what are you looking for?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
I’m looking to see what happens to internal policies. What does this mean? And I’ll give you a couple of examples. I used to be a booster for my alma mater’s football team. There were big events and everybody went. And it was very clear what we were allowed to do and what we weren’t allowed to do as boosters. We’re like a luncheon ladies group. And I think there is this question to be had around what are we instructing our donors and how does that play or not play into name, image, likeness?

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
And I think there are these bigger questions for us to be asking around what institutional policies should be. Whether it’s to support student athletes, or it’s to provide some guardrails on all of this effort as well. And I think how well institutions do or do not do that is going to lead up to state legislation coming down the pike. And if that’s the case, then we’re going to start ramping all of this back up.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
So I think we went national to then come local. And I think we’re going to start that role back up. And I’m going to be watching this from a policy standpoint. And to be honest, that policy is going to be built by those who do this well and ethically, and those who don’t. And I think we need to start to have a better sense of what that looks like and how that shakes out.

Kevin Tyler:
Teresa Valerio Parrot, Jon McBride, this has been a joy. It’s been a learning experience for me as well. I really appreciate you both sharing your expertise and perspectives on this. As you both said, this is brand, brand, brand new development in the higher ed space. So what I’d love to do is sometime next year have kind of like a part two of this to see where we’ve come from and see what kind of developments have taken place. Because I think it’ll continue to evolve over the next couple of years. Any final thoughts you’d like to share about anything?

Jon McBride:
There’s just one thing that Teresa brought up a couple times, and I keep wanting to insert. But since you asked, I’ll bring it up. The tax stuff, right? And the opportunity that this really is to educate student athletes I think is super important. And it’s prompted us to look at things in a different way. I mentioned we added this new position over student athlete experience. That was intentional. We didn’t add a new associate athletic director over NIL, because NIL we feel like folds into this broader experiential thing. Right?

Jon McBride:
So it went from conversations early last summer, where I’m looking at it from, “Okay, let’s get a personal branding course. Let’s get student agents and stuff, and working on providing content.” It went from a conversation from that to, “Well, how do we set them up for success in life? And how do we provide an experience here that’s holistic and looking at more than just getting paid for an Instagram post and moving on.”

Jon McBride:
So the conversations went to an internship program. It went to life skills like taxes, and budgeting. And even things, we have student athletes who come here and have never checked into a hotel by themselves before, right? Which is understandable, but we don’t think of when we give them that room on the first road trip. There’s a lot of life skills here. And I think NIL is a really, really great opening and doorway for us to educate student athletes and empower them for a better life overall. So I’ve been glad that this isn’t just about athletes making money, right? That this is about something a lot bigger than that. And I think student athletes are going to benefit a ton from it.

Teresa Valerio Parrot:
I would just say I think this has been an opportunity for cleaning up some policies that were just outdated that were always pointed to for why student athletes couldn’t do things. So I go back to the late ’90s, early two 2000s, and there was a student athlete named Jeremy Bloom who just got caught up in all of the red tape associated with name, image, likeness. And I think to myself now if Jeremy Bloom was a football player and an Olympic skier right now, it would be a whole different world for him. So I just want to give kudos and thanks to the many student athletes and administrators who put themselves out there, whether it was Alston or etc. who chose to say, “This is where I think the sport should go.” And the way that they’ve had conviction over years, it didn’t benefit them. But it’s going to benefit student athletes today. And I think that’s really important, and just want to say thank you to them for bringing this to everybody’s attention.

Kevin Tyler:
Awesome. Thank you both so much for joining me today. I hope you both had a great holiday season. I cannot wait to see what happens in higher ed in 2022, especially when it comes to name, image, likeness. And we’ll see what happens next. Thank you so much for joining me.

Jon McBride:
Okay. We’ll see you [crosstalk 00:49:54] Kevin. Thanks.

Kevin Tyler:
That’s it for this week’s episode of Higher Voltage. We’ll be back soon with a new episode. And until then, you can find us on Twitter @volthighered, and you can find me Kevin Tyler on Twitter @kevinctyler2.

Higher Voltage

Higher Voltage

Higher Voltage is the podcast of Volt, a publication that covers all aspects of higher ed marketing.

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