Adidas announced Wednesday that it would be launching a name, image, and likeness (NIL) network this year for all NCAA student athletes enrolled in an Adidas-partnered Division 1 university. The program will apply to more than 50,000 athletes across 32 sports and 109 institutions, starting with Power 5 conference partners and HBCUs this fall. By April 2023, the program will expand to include the rest of Adidas’ sponsored schools.
Like, comment, subscribe — Exact payment information has yet to be disclosed, but those who choose to participate will be able to earn a commission based on sales driven to the Adidas site and app. They’ll also have the opportunity to earn payment for every social media post sponsored by the brand, much like an Instagram influencer.
Tied to the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a law that protects people from sex-based discrimination in educational programs that receive federal financial assistance, Adidas says it’s aiming to create a more equitable future in sports. WNBA player Candace Parker and retired tennis champion Billie Jean King, long-time Adidas partners, are all for the program. “It’s time to focus on the next 50 years,” King said.
College athletes, unlike professional ones, haven’t always had the privilege of profiting off of their name, image, and likeness. Schools were allowed to prohibit them from doing so until 2019, when the NCAA board of governors decided to modernize the rules. While it’s been an uphill battle since then, 28 state laws have reinforced the rights, and the NCAA’s new guidelines officially went into effect in July 2021.
What comes next — Nike and Gatorade have previously targeted specific athletes in their campaigns, but Adidas is the first major sports brand to open the NIL doors to a larger swath college athletes. An expected budget of $600 million is expected for NIL deals across the board by the one-year mark of their introduction. Adidas could prompt others who already have ties to college sports, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Allstate, to start deals of their own.
The time is long overdue for college athletes to get in on the action, considering college athletic programs generate more than $4 billion in total revenue, according to the Department of Education. Still, an athlete’s fame and popularity is still key to any deal, leading some to say NIL licensing is still restricting and unbalanced.
Men and women from Adidas-sponsored schools will be given a “More Is Possible” T-shirt to wear during the March Madness tournaments. Sports fans can purchase the shirts as well, which are now available for sale on the Adidas website for $25. At the very least, the NIL program is a step in the right direction for inclusivity and equity, especially for overlooked male and female athletes.