On October 29, 2019, The NCAA and Congress made a major breakthrough on the topic of name, image, and likeness benefits for NCAA student athletes.

Remember Ed O’Bannon? Former UCLA basketball player that fought tooth and nail against the NCAA for benefiting from his nil via avenues like apparel and video game sales and eventually won. Resulting in strict rules around name image and likeness and a total shutdown of all NCAA video game releases. Side note, vaguely remember playing with that UCLA squad in Final Four for PS1 with Paul Pierce on the cover in scrimmage mode from the Maui Invitational gym. We need NCAA video games back asap.

Anyway, the announcement marked a major milestone in allowing students athletes to capitalize on their own personal brands, in the same ways athletic departments and the NCAA do every year.

The exact details of this rollout are still hazy at this point, but universities like Nebraska are taking steps towards positioning their athletes for success when this new compensation policy is officially passed.

Enter Opendorse.

Founded by former Nebraska Football linebackers Blake Lawerence and Adi Kunalic, Opendorse is a social media agency educating and providing athletes with an avenue to profit from their personal bands and grow their online presence. The first athlete/client their agency started with was Prince Amukamara, former Nebraska and NFL cornerback that spent time with the Giants, Jaguars, and Bears from 2011-2019. With Prince, they dove into how they could monetize the influence and impact athletes like him have through social and digital medias. They leveraged his presence to gain partnerships with advertisers, sponsors, and brands that would be interested in paying Prince to promote their company’s products and services and tap into his social audience. Shortly after their partnership with Prince, they peeked the interest of the NFL PA and things exploded from there. Now they partner with the player’s associations of all the major sports such as the MLB, NBA, NHL, and more. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for example:

 

 

They soon began working with college athletes as early as 2015, leveraging their brand, not into actual dollars just yet as we still wait for this nil bill to officially come to fruition, but positing personal branded content  to position these athletes for success after college. Opendorse has been working with current Husker athletes, building their personal influence through social media and planting seeds for growth when Congress and the NCAA does their official rollout. Already, they’ve begin to create highlight videos, logos, nicknames and more for current players:

 

 

An athlete’s personal brand can infuse an outside product or brand with an individual that has a wide audience and tap into their followers and fans by posting a piece of content. Opendorse’s numbers show that an Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter post gets “10-20 times more engagement than if a team or a league or a media outlet posted” that same piece of content. Opendorse goes onto explain the reason for this is ” that these social networks are made for people following actual people rather than organizations. They they can use these platforms to turn influence into a value. Whereas in the past, it as wait until you’re a professional and then take this audience that has been following you for years and turn that into partnerships and sponsorships of real value” down the road.

I think Nebraska being a front runner for this new digital landscape of influence and attention is huge. Kids will be even more interested in a University or athletic program that has a plan for field success already in place to position them for value while they play and eventually continued into their professional careers as they transition from college to the NFL or the workforce. Companies like Opendorse are getting ahead of this and showing individuals and organizations the power of a calculated digital presence and how impactful it can be for other businesses and companies that partner with these athletes.

Source: The Recruiting Hour  Podcast | March 17th with Blake Lawerence of Opendorse

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