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A Brave New World: 2021 and the Impact of NIL on College Athletics

A Brave New World: 2021 and the Impact of NIL on College Athletics

December 17, 2020

Times are changing. What once was a taboo subject across college campuses, the discussion around college athletes being able to profit from their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) is now front and center. As the federal government, states, and the NCAA continue hashing out a legal framework, NIL will have a widespread financial impact on players far sooner than expected, setting new trends in 2021 in more ways than one:

1) Income Stream Variety: Gone are the days where use of a player’s NIL solely meant sponsoring local events or products. The expansion of social media as a marketing tool in addition to sports’ digital reach due to streaming and other video-based services provide college athletes with a considerable global following. Having an attentive, built-in target audience allows college athletes to profit from their NIL in a variety of ways such as becoming an influencer, generating video content, merchandising, leading investment and marketing efforts for start-up companies, running camps, speaking engagements, etc.

2) The All-Encompassing Effect: While discussions usually gravitate towards how NIL affects athletes in popular sports like football and basketball or in well-known Division I schools, the reality is generating NIL income will become a new standard regardless of discipline or school size. From golf to swimming played at a junior college or even a high school, athletes will find different avenues to profit from their NIL  that not only expands their marketability while in school but also after, whether they turn pro or not.

3) Financial Education is in Session: If one side of the coin is generating income, the other side involves how to manage it properly. NIL will form a competitive environment where, beyond using their earning potential, college athletes will need tailored financial education early on in their career to know how to convert their current NIL-based income into lifelong wealth.

How NIL alters the consistent focus on preserving amateurism in college athletics is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, the shift towards NIL acceptance certainly ushers in a new world for college athletes dictated by market-driven forces, reputation awareness, and more sophisticated financial understanding.