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This is Capitalism: Up Close, Inspired, Explained

Mar 30, 2022

Patricia O’Connell interviews Drew Russell, EVP of Sports Properties & Media Assets at Intersport about how the recent rulings that permitted Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals directly between collegiate athletes and sponsoring brands have affected college sports and individual branding for collegiate athletes. They discuss the legal background, the choices athletes have now, and any effect NIL deals may have on how collegiate games are played.


Listen in to learn more about this exciting development for college athletes.

Key Takeaways:

[1:13] Patricia O’Connell introduces Drew Russell, Executive Vice President of Sports Properties & Media Assets at Intersport, a Chicago-based sports and entertainment marketing company.

[1:35] Drew is a big-time fan of college sports.

[2:12] Court cases opened the door for collegiate athletes to monetize themselves, starting with the lawsuit brought by UCLA player Ed O’Bannon over an EA Sports video game that used his likeness and the likenesses of other players in its NCAA games.

[3:01] The courts allowed the institutions and the states to determine monetization opportunities for college athletes. For the first time, college athletes can monetize their name, image, and likeness (NIL) in various ways. College athletes cannot be paid for performance or paid to play.

[5:28] Each athlete is their own brand. There’s a female gymnast at LSU with four million followers. This rule has been very helpful for Olympic athletes and female athletes.

[6:26] The average of athletes’ NIL deals has been in the range of $2,000 as social media influencers to amplify a local or national brand’s message.

[7:23] A lot of brands jumped in right away. A number of deals were struck at midnight the day NIL became legal for college athletes. The brands were looking for PR value more than an immediate return on their investment.

[8:53] A variety of brands are getting involved. Footwear and apparel companies and sports beverage companies, that have long been linked with collegiate sports are now starting to jump into NIL deals, not just with the star quarterback or the center.

[9:59] The larger brands that go for the professional athletes have been strategic with their approach to collegiate NIL deals.

[10:51] Collegiate athlete NIL deals present a great opportunity for local businesses that might not be able to afford to buy a sponsorship campaign with the university.

[13:51] Drew talks about how the athletes benefit from this NIL initiative. They are being educated about brand-building and opportunities and with whom they want to align. What are their social causes? What do they advocate? NIL is part of the recruiting pitch, so the universities are assisting the athletes in the area of branding.

[14:52] The universities are getting assistance from third-party consulting companies and collectives.

[15:43] For some athletes and some sports, college playing is the pinnacle of their sports career. The ability to build a social media presence and content offerings is a great benefit to their growth.

[16:44] Drew discusses the positive sides of athletes’ NIL campaigns. Athletes have learned to be selective in choosing where they want to be aligned.

[18:37] Are there downsides to allowing college athletes to participate in NIL campaigns? They have to be sure they are generating a return for their investors. Drew is not aware of any situations that have gone South, relative to either the brand or the athlete, after almost a year of campaigns.

[20:04] The disparity in resources for universities is the biggest downside for schools. There are only a small number of universities that are making money from college athletics. Only the larger institutions are going to be able to supply support resources to NIL programs. This is no different from the past differences between schools.

[21:35] Drew discusses his experience as a college sports fan. The NIL campaigns have not affected his enjoyment. It’s an opportunity for the athletes and the institutions to perform on the biggest stages. It may even encourage the athletes to perform to their best ability.

[23:00] Old-school thinkers may object that this is not the college sports they grew up with. It’s true that we’re living in a different world. This is not the downfall of college athletics. It hasn’t had the negative impact that some predicted would occur. It’s been good for everyone involved.

[24:52] Patricia thanks Drew for being on This is Capitalism, the podcast.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Drew Russell

Ed O’Bannon

EA Sports
Ed O’Bannon vs. NCAA