Adidas says it will offer NIL money to anyone who plays at a DI college sponsored by the sportswear giant, the latest wide-ranging corporate deal aimed at utilizing new marketing rights to better compensate college athletes.
The program could reach over 50,000 athletes at 109 different Division I schools, Adidas said in a statement. The German company’s college portfolio includes major programs like Miami, Kansas, NC State, Indiana and Louisville, all still alive in the men’s or women’s Sweet Sixteen, plus others like Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Washington.
Eligible athletes will have the opportunity to be paid per social media post, and to join an affiliate program that grants them a percentage of all sales they directly drive to the Adidas website or app. The company was not specific on how much it would be offering.
The Adidas announcement is the latest in what has been a rapidly evolving market for college athlete marketing rights. Permitted for the first time just eight months ago, NIL deals have transformed from standard one-off partnerships between athlete and company to much broader arrangements that involve either bigger groups of athletes or bigger groups of backers.
The NCAA, which deliberately chose to provide very little guidance on what should and shouldn’t be allowed regarding NIL, announced last month that it was reviewing how the new market is affecting students. The governing body has concerns over deals that involve whole teams, particularly those in which participation at a specific school is the main determining factor in whether an offer is made.
Adidas’ move also shows how quickly the conversation around compensating athletes—and the role of shoe companies in that economy—has shifted in recent years. Back in 2017, the FBI arrested nearly a dozen people, including college coaches and an Adidas executive, as part of a long-running probe into bribery and wire fraud. The government had evidence that shoe company employees were funneling money to elite basketball recruits and their families as inducements to get them to attend schools sponsored by those same companies. At the time that counted as a massive scandal.
Two years later, after the cases were tried and plea deals were struck, the case resulted in minimal jail time for just a few of the people arrested. There were few consequences for the shoe companies themselves or the colleges involved. Now Adidas is able to openly compensate athletes who play at its sponsored schools in exchange for social media posts and business leads.
Adidas said it will unroll its NIL program in phases over the next 12 months, starting with its Power Five and HBCU partners. The company said athletes at all schools will have access by April 2023.