South Carolina First in Nation With In-House NIL Partner

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University of South Carolina student-athletes will have access to elite brand support, negotiation assistance and a strategic deal procurement process through a new partnership between Gamecock athletics and Everett Sports Marketing (ESM), USC athletics director Ray Tanner announced Tuesday.

“We are excited to bring these opportunities to our student-athletes,” said Tanner, according to the announcement on the Gamecocks website.  “ESM is a leader in the field of sports marketing and has a tremendous track record in representing athletes in brand development. I appreciate our staff and donors who helped us put this arrangement together. I am confident it will be a tremendous Name Image and Likeness resource for our student-athletes.”

Tanner went further when speaking with ESPN, calling the USC direction on NIL the first of its kind in the nation. "There have been a lot of different approaches, and nobody has gone this way," Tanner told ESPN's Adam Rittenberg. "We're confident that this will be an impactful situation for our young men and women to play sports and get branded at the maximum level."

ESM sports management represents high-profile NIL talent across sports and genders, including Mac Jones, Jalen Hurts, Nick Chubb and Jonathan Taylor, as well as women’s collegiate basketball players and twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder, who have established a large following through NIL arrangements.

“With ESM’s background in data, analytics and the caliber of talent they manage, it was a no-brainer to seek their partnership and counsel to rethink NIL and develop an entity that will position our student athletes to be the leaders in NIL procurement and execution,” said USC senior deputy athletics director Chance Miller in the university release.

In partnership with USC, ESM has created an in-house agency for all NIL activities called Park Ave, which applies ESM's decades of sports management and representation experience to Gamecock student-athletes and their brands at no charge to the student-athletes.

Park Ave will provide data and analytics to determine influence and brand partnerships, will leverage their extensive knowledge in deal negotiation and procurement, and will spearhead creative content development and execution.

According to ESPN, unlike other states that place restrictions on how involved schools can be in the NIL process, South Carolina state law allows schools to help athletes secure NIL deals. ESM will not represent South Carolina athletes while they are in school, and will be an "ancillary service" for athletes who already have NIL agents, ESPN reported.

ESM hired five new staff members to oversee the South Carolina initiative and cannot partner with any other school during the first year of the agreement, according to ESPN. In Year 2, ESM cannot partner with other schools in the SEC or within the state.

USC has two external NIL collectives, which the athletic department communicates with weekly. In 2021, the school partnered with Altius, an NIL advisory and education firm, and INFLCR, an NIL social content sharing platform, according to ESPN's Rittenberg, who adds that the difference with ESM, according to South Carolina officials, is the direct marketing expertise and existing relationships with brands such as Eastbay and Champs Sports.

Said ESM president Dan Everett, “Chance and [associate athletic director for administration] Hilary [Cox] had the foresight to bring to fruition the first NIL firm in the country that partners with a sports agency to exclusively represent a single university, provide the service without fees to their student-athletes and is an ancillary service to athletes with current representation. Our teams at ESM and Park Ave are the most well-versed NIL agents and talent in the sports marketplace. We have broken ground on novel deals with the largest brands-both domestic and globally. It is inspiring to see what UofSC is willing to invest in positioning their athletes to be able to maximize NIL at unprecedented levels. UofSC will become the leader for NIL in the collegiate space.”

One of the most innovative components of the partnership, according to the university release, is that all the expertise and time provided by Park Ave and its employees are free of charge and non-exclusive to the athletes.

“It can’t be underscored enough how valuable their services will be to our athletes. To have the top sports marketers without commissions and fees creates an enormous amount of opportunity and value for the student athletes’ brands”, Miller said. “This arrangement creates a marketplace of inclusive ideation and partnership across athletes even with existing representation. Park Ave is an ancillary service and can be tapped into or not, there is no competition for services as Park Ave is a service provided by the University. Ultimately this is about the university providing the very best and most experienced sports management talent to our athletes.”

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