Athletes Ink First Endorsement Deals in NCAA History

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College athletes are wasting no time taking advantage of the NCAA allowing them to profit off their name, image and likeness.

ESPN started compiling a list of athlete endorsement deals Thursday morning, on the first day that the rules of amateurism shifted to allow athletes to profit.

Hanna and Haley Cavinder, twin sisters on the Fresno State women’s basketball team, acted immediately, flying to New York to sign a deal making them spokeswomen for Boost Mobile. The plan is for the twins, who each have more than 250,000 followers on Instagram, to be part of a national advertising campaign.

“It was really exciting that such a known company wanted to work with Hanna and me,” Haley said. “This is a big switch for all student-athletes. Being able to use your name, image and likeness is something we all deserve, and I’m really thankful the NCAA is finally passing this.”

Boost Mobile is reportedly planning to be highly involved with college athletes, with CEO Stephen Stokols telling ESPN the company has a list of 400 student-athletes it hopes to partner with on a national or local level. Deals could range from annual contracts, to providing free products in exchange for social media promotion.

"A lot of these guys are local heroes," Stokols said. "We think it's a big opportunity to get regional and local with relevant names in those markets. ...We want to be one of the biggest companies embracing [the college-athlete marketplace] early. We hope to play a role in helping to shape it. There is a lot of gray area that will hopefully be more defined a year from now."

Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton and Miami quarterback D’Eriq King are taking a bit of a different approach, signing on as co-founders of Dreamfield. The NIL-based platform is intended to book live events for student-athletes, such as autograph signings, meet-and-greets and speaking engagements. According to ESPN, Milton and King will be the public faces of Dreamfield and will recruit other athletes to use the platform.

"This is an opportunity for me to get my foot in the door to start being an entrepreneur, but this is also something that I'm passionate about, helping college athletes monetize off their name, image and likeness," Milton told ESPN. "This should have been something going on for a while, but now it's here, and it's a cool opportunity."

The NIL landscape will likely develop over time. The path toward Thursday started in 2019, California passed the Fair Pay to Play Act to allow athletes to profit. While California’s law has yet to take effect, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas passed laws that were scheduled to go into effect July 1. Therefore, the NCAA’s board of directors acted Wednesday to open up opportunities for all athletes, regardless of which state they live in.

According to a press release on the NCAA’s website, the policy provides the following guidance to college athletes, recruits, their families and member schools:

  • Individuals can engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located. Colleges and universities may be a resource for state law questions.
  • College athletes who attend a school in a state without an NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image and likeness.
  • Individuals can use a professional services provider for NIL activities.
  • Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school. 

Related content: NCAA Officially Adopts Interim NIL Policy

Other early adopters of the NIL era included in the list ESPN has compiled include:

• Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon plans to celebrate his newfound independence with a paid appearance at an Iowa City fireworks shop this weekend. Bohannon also plans to partner with a local cryotherapy company, monetize his podcast and start selling personal merchandise through an online storefront.

• Nebraska volleyball player Lexi Sun is selling branded sweatshirts through the volleyball apparel company Ren.

• Five members of the Jackson State football team — Aubrey Miller, CJ Holmes, Tony Gray, Antwan Owns and Warren Newman III — signed a deal with 3 Kings Grooming products.

• Unilever plans to spend $5 million over the next five years in partnerships with college athletes promoting the deodorant brand Degree. A company spokesperson said it plans to spend equal amounts of money on male and female athletes that come from a diverse range of sports and backgrounds.

• Runza, a restaurant chain based in Lincoln, Neb., announced Wednesday that it plans to offer a flat fee to the first 100 Nebraska-based college athletes who promote the company's rewards program on their social media feeds.

Related content: Wisconsin QB Mertz Introduces Personal Trademark

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