At the stroke of midnight marking July 1, NCAA athletes across the country entered a new era of financial freedom. For the first time, they’re now allowed to sign marketing deals, endorse products, receive payment for autographs and more—a broad set of rights commonly referred to as name, image and likeness, or NIL. Long fought by the NCAA itself, the change came following legal challenges and public activism, and recent pressure from state legislatures across the U.S.
Athletes and sponsors wasted little time taking advantage. Midnight saw a rush of people claiming to have executed the very first new deal, and less than 12 hours into the new “NIL Era,” dozens of college athletes—some big names, some lesser known—have begun making money. Here are a few that caught our eye at Sportico:
- Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon is selling $33.33 T-shirts under his J30 Apparel brand. Bohannon, an outspoken NCAA critic, is also signing autographs at a fireworks store in Windsor Heights, Iowa, on Thursday afternoon.
— Jordan Bohannon (@JordanBo_3) July 1, 2021
- Early deals might prove easiest for the athletes with the largest social followings. Twin sisters Haley and Hanna Cavinder, Fresno State basketball players with a combined 507,000 Instagram followers, announced deals with both Boost Mobile and Six Star Pro Nutrition.
- Heisman Trophy frontrunner Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma’s quarterback, unveiled a new personal logo and promised to donate a portion of his NIL proceeds to underserved communities.
— Spencer Rattler (@SpencerRattler) July 1, 2021
- Autographs will be another main way athletes collect money. SMU linebacker Jimmy Phillips III conducted a live signing with Fangage at midnight, streamed over Instagram Live.
- Businesses ownership is also on the table. Heisman Trophy hopeful D’Eriq King, a quarterback at Miami, and Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton became co-founders of Dreamfield, a marketplace for athletes to sell autographs, book live event engagements and sell NFTs. King also inked a deal with a moving company called College Hunks Hauling Junk, worth a reported $20,000.
— Dreamfield (@dreamfieldco) July 1, 2021
- Media will be another option. Nebraska basketball players Trey McGowens III and Bryce McGowens announced a podcast “Off Court,” that is sponsored by two local restaurants. Episode 1 is already out.
Off Court is brought to you by Tanners Bar & Grill and Tavern 180 in Lincoln.
Listen to Episode 1:
— Off Court with The McGowens (@OffcourtP) July 1, 2021
- Many athletes, including Baylor basketball player Jared Butler, have listed themselves on online marketplaces like Cameo, where they can collect money for sending personalized videos. Butler’s videos cost $45.
— Jared Butler (@J_Hooper11) July 1, 2021
- Athletes will also now be able to monetize hobbies or talents they may have off the field. Marshall offensive lineman Will Ulmer, for example, plans to take his newfound freedom to country music stages. Ulmer can now play live shows under his name (instead of his former alias “Lucky Bill”) and get paid for his performances.
Now that the NCAA will allow it, I will be playing live shows this year as Will Ulmer!! I am open to all venues and business opportunities!! DM if interested, let’s make some music🎶 pic.twitter.com/iniLdoz2ye
— Will Ulmer 𓅓 (@UlmerWill) July 1, 2021
- Deals are clearly not reserved just for athletes at the biggest schools. Five football players at HBCU Jackson State, including defensive end Antwan Owens, inked deals with Three Kings Grooming, a black-owned business. JSU players, coached by Deion Sanders, are also involved in marketing opportunities coordinated by SMAC Entertainment, co-founded by Michael Strahan and Constance Schwartz-Morini. One early deal: SMAC announced WorkForce Software will sponsor JSU’s offensive and defensive linemen.
- Companies are also being proactive in public. Nebraska-based fast food chain Runza is offering an undisclosed flat fee to the first 100 college athletes in the state to promote its rewards program on their social media accounts. Unilever-owned Degree deodorant is launching a $5 million commitment to work with college athletes over the next five years. Delivery service Gopuff said it would offer deals (likely very small ones) to any college athlete who is interested.