Future. Adidas announced on Wednesday that it’s launching a NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) program for NCAA D1 athletes at Adidas-partnered schools, which will allow over 50,000 student-athletes to finally monetize their personal brands. The move could lead competing sponsors to launch similar programs — which would only sweeten the deal for the players.
From pay-your-way to play-for-pay
Though some student-athletes have been able to make money since the NCAA leadership changed their rules in 2019, there’s never been a large-scale NIL network like this one.
- Student-athletes’ main source of income from the program would be commissions based on ad sales, but Adidas will also allow them to make money for every sponsored social media post.
- Adidas plans to spend $600M in the first year of the program alone — and that’s just on HBCUs and Power 5 conference partners.
- The program’s reveal coincides with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which protects athletes from sex-based discrimination. Adidas is honoring that legislation with a step towards equity and equality for (and between) student-athletes.
For context, college sports made schools $14 billion last year. So when student-athletes are making nothing… well, it’s easy to see why critics have called the model unfair.
Gatorade and Nike already have sponsorship programs in place that partner with particularly hot NCAA stars. But Adidas could force them to recalibrate to remain competitive — or bring new sponsors into the fold to capitalize on the opportunity.
That would be great for players who’d benefit from any kind of corporate contest for their affections. But even if this doesn’t happen, the Adidas NIL program is a step in the right direction.