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Adidas Paves the Way for Major Sports Apparel Brands to Embrace NIL

By: Chris Tulley

NIL opportunities have completely shaken up the collegiate sports landscape. Starting back on July 1, 2021, collegiate athletes could begin monetizing off their name, image, and likeness. This opened endless doors for collegiate athletes to begin finding creative ways to make money off the court or playing field.

Allowing college athletes to earn money has allowed brands to partner with these athletes and create unique marketing campaigns. One of the more well known partnerships, when NIL was introduced, was between Alabama Football’s DB Kool-Aid McKinstry and the popular drink, Kool-Aid. This partnership allowed a college athlete to be compensated for promoting a brand across their social media platforms, beginning a brand new era of athlete partnerships. An abundance of athletes have been able to capitalize on their NIL and take advantage of the opportunity to earn money while being a student-athlete. Some collegiate athletes have even earned endorsement deals valued in the six-figure range.

NIL opportunities have grown exponentially since being legal, which have encouraged more brands to start taking advantage of these opportunities. Just last week, Adidas made the groundbreaking announcement that they are opening their NIL network to every college athlete at an Adidas partnered NCAA D1 university. According to Adidas, the program will be accessible for over 50,000 student-athletes across 23 sports and 109 D1 schools. Adidas plans to launch this program over a period of four phases in the next 12 months, starting with HBCUs and Power-5 conference partners in the Fall. The new program will give student-athletes at these schools the ability to earn commission on sales they help produce and give the opportunity to become paid ambassadors for the brand.

Rupert Campbell, President of Adidas North America, is quoted saying “At Adidas, we are committed to creating change through sport and recognize the important role student-athletes play in shaping the future. Our groundbreaking NIL program advances our commitments toward building inclusivity in sport and inspires athletes to realize a more equitable world. I can’t wait to see it come to life.”

Adidas has made history by becoming the first major brand to create something of this nature, benefiting student-athletes from across the country. This will give Adidas-sponsored universities the upper hand when it comes to recruiting and being able to provide NIL opportunities for their student-athletes.

With this new market opportunity, we can expect other dominant sports apparel brands, such as Nike and Under Armour, to create unique NIL programs of their own. NIL opportunities are truly just beginning and we have yet to see the true outcome and revenue in which these student-athletes can help produce. Each brand will have an opportunity to create their own NIL program with universities across the country, but for now Adidas is paving the way forward.

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