Thursday marked Day One for NCAA student-athletes looking to profit off their name, image and likeness rights while competing in college.
To help them navigate the NCAA’s recent rule change, colleges and universities – including Gonzaga and Washington State – are launching programs to help guide students along the way.
Gonzaga is launching the Next Level program, offering individualized education for basketball players to better build their brand. Announced late last month, the program will teach students how to elevate their personal brands through five focus areas: personal brand management, financial literacy, business and entrepreneurship, social media and NIL rights legislation.
Likewise, WSU on Wednesday announced the Cougar Pursuit, which will involve a five-week course for student-athletes on topics including intellectual property, digital marketing and life after sports.
Both universities are partnering with INFLCR, a Birmingham, Alabama-based company that offers a platform for student athletes to market themselves while remaining within NIL regulations. INFLCR – pronounced “influencer” – offers services to more than 1,000 NCAA athletic teams and boasts an app used by more than 40,000 student-athletes to access content generated from competitions, practices, travel and other aspects of play.
Next Level will begin this month, according to Gonzaga. The details on how exactly it will work, however, are still being finalized.
“This moment is an important one for our student-athletes,” Mike Roth, Gonzaga’s director of athletics, said in a statement announcing the Next Level program. “It’s exciting that we can empower them with the NIL legislation.”
The Cougar Pursuit and Next Level are just two of the many programs that have launched across the country.
The University of Oregon was the first Pac-12 Conference institution to partner with INFLCR for content delivery and NIL services, said UO spokesperson Jimmy Stanton.
Oregon’s NIL education program, EMERGE, involves educational content delivery through INFLCR’s app services as well as seminars from the university’s student athlete development team and other partners, including UO’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center.
As of late last month, there are nearly 50 short-form videos available for UO student-athletes on the INFLCR app on NIL-related topics. Stanton said more than 95% of Oregon’s student-athletes are using the app.
The University of Arizona, meanwhile, is leveraging its partnership with INFLCR to supplement the university’s in-house NIL development program, Arizona Edge, by delivering student-athletes’ branding content (game photos, marketing shoots, highlight reels, etc.) to them via the app, said Arizona athletics spokesperson Matt Ensor.
Arizona Edge was created by the athletics department in partnership with the university’s Eller College of Management and law school. According to the university, industry professionals, athletics staff and other partners will design programming around brand management, business development, financial literacy and other focus areas.
The extent of INFLCR’s partnerships with colleges and universities ranges from content delivery through INFLCR’s app to more in-depth NIL programming.
But when it comes to providers, INFLCR isn’t the only fish in the NIL programming and services pond.
The University of Washington has partnered with the brand-building platform Opendorse as part of its NIL program, Boundless Futures. As part of the program, faculty with UW’s Foster School of Business will offer NIL-centric courses. Meanwhile, Opendorse Ready, Opendorse’s NIL readiness program, will provide student-athletes with “personalized assessment, education and performance tools” to help understand and build their social audiences, according to the university.
The University of Southern California partners with Altius Sports Partners and J1S on NIL-related programming. The university’s INFLCR partnership is used to distribute content created by the athletics department, including photos and video, to the student-athletes for their social media platforms, said USC athletics spokesperson Tim Tessalone.
Gonzaga men’s basketball coach Mark Few, who testified before Congress last month to encourage federal lawmakers to pass NIL legislation, said “I am excited that we are giving student-athletes a real chance to build their brands.”
“I’ve been a big believer in the NIL movement,” Few said in the statement on the Next Level program, “and I’m proud that we can start helping our players capitalize on their potential.”
Gonzaga women’s basketball head coach Lisa Fortier added, “I am really glad we will be able to offer our student-athletes some guidance with the new NIL legislation coming out soon. We have incredible student-athletes in our programs, and we want them to have every opportunity to maximize this movement to their benefit.”