What exactly is your name worth?
Think about it. How much would someone be willing to pay for say, an autograph? Maybe a shirt, the back emblazoned with your last name in big bold letters? $10? $20? I think $25 if you’re lucky.
I doubt I’ll be answering that question anytime soon, but it’s a complicated issue that college and high school athletes face. And it’s a problem that Wheeler and Chrissy Earl with Savannah NIL are trying to help student-athletes work through with their latest initiative, Savannah NIL.
The site offers opportunities to learn all about the business options a high school or college student can pursue by monetizing their name. Not sure if you qualify for participation in the program? Maybe you’re curious about how much you should charge for a social media partnership.
These are questions that constantly plague student-athletes, which was kind of surprising to me. After all, I just see the players on the field. It’s sort of difficult for a casual observer to see beyond them as a player.
Let’s start off with what an amateur athlete goes through while attending college. Say a university likes your ball playing, so they offer you a scholarship to play for them. Now that’s a full-ride scholarship, which covers tuition, books, board, etc. But it never really puts any money directly into your pocket.
“A lot of people don’t realize that even a full scholarship athlete still has needs,” explains Chrissy. “After all, that scholarship only provides for room, board, and books. That’s not covering money for you to use to say go have pizza with friends.”
This has been an issue for decades. The N.C.A.A. (National Collegiate Athletic Association) refused to pay players when their name, image, or likeness made money. That all changed in 2019.
California became the first state to pass a law that allowed college athletes to be paid for the use of their NIL. N.C.A.A. officials called it “harmful”, “unconstitutional”, and an “existential threat” to college sports. But take a second to soak in the numbers here.
AP news reported on an estimate from Opendorse, a NIL platform, in July of ‘22. Opendorse found that NIL’s partnerships had seen about $917 million pass through the industry in 2021. The Association has undoubtedly lost out on a chunk of that money.
“It caused a change in how the NCAA works with athletes,” says Wheeler Earl. “College athletics is amatuerism and that’s what they’re trying to protect. Bringing in NIL kind of opened up a big can of worms.”
But it’s a can of worms that has proved to be worth working through.
“You should have the ability to earn money based on your name image and likeness,” explains Chrissy. “And you should be able to capitalize on it at any time. You can earn this money now and set yourself up for success.”
And that’s what led them to develop their website.
The site is much more than just information. It’s a platform providing answers to a community of athletes living in a world that demands success. They take courses through the site that teach them how to manage things like money, merchandise and goods. They feature an entrepreneurship crash course, financial literacy session, and insight into a tumultuous industry.
“It’s so neat to give someone those skills because I didn’t have them when I left college,” says Chrissy. “Real world experience. They’re having a whole different experience in college than their fellow students.”
They recently started work with a new collective in Florida. A collective here means a community gathering resources to help students earn NIL deals.
“They send us their athletes,” explains Chrissy. “We develop a brand for them, we have a business meeting with them, and then we launch them. And they sell their merchandise.”
They help in more ways than just launching careers. They’re a different kind of cheerleader. One that’s supportive and super knowledgeable about business in sports.
“We had one kid that’s a football player that all of a sudden sold a lot of shirts, but then couldn’t collect that money since he didn’t have a bank account,” Chrissy explained. “We were able to help by walking him through the setup behind his first bank account.”
This is essentially a young high school or college student’s first endeavor to start their own business. Chrissy and Wheeler are helping to launch their journey, and they say it’s taken their love of the game to the next level.
“Now I know the story behind the athletes,” she says, smiling as Wheeler nods. “It makes it so much more personal.”
Learn more about Savannah NIL by visiting https://savannahnil.com/.