What is NIL in college sports? NCAA athletes with the biggest endorsement deals
A significant change in the college sports landscape has been made with the decision to allow athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness.
If you don’t understand the situation surrounding NIL money and college athletes, then no need to worry, as we’ve got the low down on what it’s all about.
The NIL money debate
College athletes can now rejoice after decades worth of petitions finally saw the NCAA change its policies where earning NIL money is concerned. In the wake of the monumental decision, universities and major brands across the country have been in a frenzy to understand just what said changes mean and, more importantly, how they can benefit from them. Indeed, that fervor is not just limited to those institutions, with athletes scrambling nationwide to get an understanding of exactly what they can and can’t do where NIL money is concerned.
There is, of course, a great deal of information out there regarding the signing of NIL endorsement deals, but it should be noted that there is much less available in terms of how an athlete can acquire a NIL deal and moreover, just how much one can be worth. With that said, we aim to answer those questions and a few more, so join us for a look at how NIL money works in the college game today.
What is NIL money?
The term ‘NIL money’ refers to money that an athlete can earn by signing a NIL contract which in turn allows the athlete to market their name, image, and likeness - hence the term ‘NIL.’ Where the exact amount of money received is concerned, it’s important to note that it depends on factors such as social media following, market value, and of course, the actual sport in question. At present, football and basketball players receive the largest amount of compensation in the NIL market, but that’s not to say that NIL contracts don’t exist in other sports as well.
How do athletes earn NIL money?
Though there are varying ways in which athletes can earn NIL contracts, the most common are as follows:
To date, there are more than 450,000 student-athletes across the United States who have earned NIL money by partnering with local businesses in promotions. Interestingly, some of those athletes have even managed to enter into deals with big brands, resulting in things like training clinics as well as autograph and photograph opportunities at corporate events. There are even a select few who have managed to be featured in commercials for businesses. With all that said, it still seems that the most straightforward way to earn NIL money is by utilizing social media influence. That’s right if you’ve got enough of a following on social media, that can be translated into lucrative sums of money by agreeing to post sponsored content. Even nano-influencers – athletes with about 10,000 followers – can profit off of their social media followings.
How much money can college athletes make with a NIL deal?
Broadly speaking, the average income from NIL deals for student-athletes ranges from $1,000 to $10,000, however, we’ve seen cases where some athletes have earned a whole lot more than that. Those cases, as mentioned above, were directly tied to the sport in question, the projected success of the athlete, and the social media following, which, as you can imagine, was sizeable. Take, for example, high school basketball player Bronny James, Lebron James’ son. Dad’s influence helps here, but the fact that his NIL valuation is at $7.5 million is a case in itself.
LSU’s gymnast Olivia Dunne is known as the “most followed NCAA athlete on social media,” with over 11.3 million followers, including 330,000,000 likes on her TikTok account, is the second on the list with an estimated NIL value of $3.4 million. Caleb Williams is the first on the list below who is a college student-athlete. He’s a USC quarterback with a NIL valuation of $2.6 million. Arch Manning is another example where his family helps boost is valuation. He’s valued at $2.1 million and hasn’t finished high school either.
Ultimately, NIL deals are here to stay, but what effect that has on young college athletes and moreover institutions’ ability to recruit them remains to be seen. Watch this space.