College Athletes are the next big thing for the Influencer business. On June 28, the NCAA board announced they will allow college athletes to profit off of their names, images, and likenesses (NIL) under new guidelines as a result of a ruling from the Supreme Court. (Alston vs. NCAA)
This change opens the floodgates for college athletes to leverage their already busy social media profiles for a profit by contracting with brands and businesses. Experts estimate athletes working as influencers could earn thousands to hundreds of thousands a year. The policy undoubtedly will bring major changes to NCAA sports, especially revenue-generating sports like football and basketball.
Those who support the new arrangement believe it's only fair and long overdue that college athletes share in the profits their performance generates, and that athletes should be compensated by colleges with free tuition or other bonuses. College sports is known to be a massive revenue generator for many colleges. In 2019, the amount of sports-generated revenue among all athletic departments affiliated with the NCAA totaled $18.9 billion.
While the policy does open NIL activities to student-athletes, it will continue to prohibit pay-for-play and improper inducements to choosing to attend a particular school, according to an NCAA press release. In addition, many states have already introduced their own laws related to NIL policy and schools and conferences may choose to adopt their own policies. At least seven states have policies going into effect on July 1, according to ESPN.
A few major take-away from this news.
1 Influencer marketing is becoming mainstream AND displacing previous mediums: In the modern era's increasingly complex media landscape, influencer marketing continues to become a more popular and profitable choice for brands and businesses. Between 2016 and 2021, influencer marketing grew from a $1.7 billion industry to more than $13.8 billion. Also noteworthy Google search for influencer marketing have grown inversely to searches for print advertising since 2017. (see No. 34)
2. College sports and colleges will also change from the move. I can't help but feel like this is a Pandora's box moment. College athletes are still young, developing adults and already carry immense pressure from their roles. They should share in the profits they help generate, but also will need guidance and protection as they enter into contracts that commoditize their personas and could potentially invade their privacy or lead to mental health issues or public scandals.