Name, Image and Likeness Part 5: How schools are handling it
To put the monetization potential of name, image and likeness into perspective, here are a few numbers from two recent Michigan commitments.
Four-star defensive end Quintin Somerville pledged to the Wolverines on June 20 and his commitment video has 164,000 views. Five days later, four-star receiver Cristian Dixon picked Michigan and his video is already over 204,000 views.
Here’s one more number: Michigan has 611,000 living alumni.
For Michigan recruiting director Matt Dudek, NIL will be a massive part of his life in the coming years, although the NCAA Board of Governors won’t hear proposals on how it exactly will work until October and won’t vote on it until January.
RIVALS' NAME, IMAGE & LIKENESS SERIES:
TUESDAY: Building an athlete's brand
WEDNESDAY: What HS athletes think
THURSDAY: How colleges are handling this
FRIDAY: The most marketable college athletes
The basic thinking at this point is something like this: College players will not be allowed to be engaged in pay-for-play schemes and dubious alumni with fistfuls of cash won’t be passing it out under the guise of “free-market value.” It’s not going to work that way.
Instead, either an NCAA board or a third-party administrator will review NIL transactions in Ann Arbor, or College Station or State College for that matter to determine their legitimacy and then either approve or cancel that particular situation.
Can the Michigan quarterback or running back or wide receiver have a social media campaign for XYZ company and be paid $1,000. Almost certainly. Can “Happy” from the movie "Blue Chips" buy Neon a car for doing some menial task or can he purchase farm equipment for Ricky Roe for signing some autographs? Absolutely not.
Back to Michigan and myriad possibilities this will have for Dudek and his recruiting staff once the legislation is worked out. At this point, Dudek – and assuredly college staffs around the country – still have more questions than answers.
“We’re certainly engaging the recruits in name, image and likeness and we’re being exceptionally honest with them in that no one knows what it quite is yet,” Dudek said. “We know it’s passing, we’re excited it’s passing. We think it’s a great opportunity for student-athletes, but no one knows what it is. Our goal is to not make empty promises to recruits.
“We’re just explaining what it is, explaining the opportunities that they’ll have and whatever the rules are, whether we can help them or not help them, our Michigan community can help them. We’re looking for that guidance to know what path to finally take. We’re on that path, we’re coming to some forks of what’s the involvement, what’s the amounts, what’s the timing, and as we continue to gather information we’re going to build our plan off that.”
The Wolverines are in a unique position when it comes to name, image and likeness. The alumni base is huge, yes, and there could be opportunities there. Ann Arbor is a decent-sized college town with plenty of businesses to pursue athletes for commercial opportunities. Detroit is less than an hour away so it’s not beyond the imagination to think some Michigan athletes will be seen in Ford or General Motors campaigns.
And Jim Harbaugh is the coach, a marketing machine who is outspoken on student-athlete rights, who’s had some silly recruiting tales along the way but is also seriously accomplished at all levels of football.
To recruit players to Michigan – and be able to walk them through or at least counsel them in matters of NIL – could be an invaluable recruiting pitch for Harbaugh, one many other coaches cannot match.
“No one has done it like Coach Harbaugh has done it,” Dudek said. “He’s been a Heisman finalist. He’s been an NFL player. He’s been an NFL Pro Bowler. He’s been a head coach at the lower level. He’s been a head coach at the Division I level. He’s made it to the Super Bowl as a head coach in the NFL.
“So he’s seen the entire gamut and I don’t know of any other coach who’s had that same experience as a player and as a coach at those high levels he’s had. It’s a huge advantage for Coach Harbaugh and he’s one of the biggest voices in student-athlete rights. He’s coming out with unique and very thoughtful ideas to give student-athletes more rights, to give them more opportunities, both in the NFL and in business and in everything.”
NIL is an emerging opportunity for Dudek in his role pitching the Michigan brand to recruits. He said current players haven’t talked with him much about NIL yet, but recruits know it’s coming.
Star quarterback commit J.J. McCarthy said NIL had no influence in his decision to pick the Wolverines. In a few years, money could be flowing his way because of his choice.
And Dudek wants to make sure all of Michigan’s players are prepared for what’s coming, while still holding his breath to see how the NCAA plays it from a legislative standpoint.
“You want to wait to see what’s going on,” Dudek said. “We have plans in place and we’ve had numerous conversations to figure that stuff out. As for content creation, it’s no different than what we’ve been doing, content creating and building the Michigan brand.
“Showing that off to recruits especially during this COVID-19 period from a standpoint of everyone in the country has had to be super creative to take their universities to the recruits because they haven’t been able to come to their universities.”
CLASS OF 2022: Top 100
His title is assistant director of creative media for Florida football, but Kevin Camps wears a lot of hats. From the creative to the strategic, behind-the-scenes and on social media, his job is to drive content to prospects, players, coaches and everyone in between.
If it’s good for Florida football and it involves creative social media ideas, Camps is your man.
Part of his responsibilities is developing edits for top prospects, delivering them on social media and then hoping those players publicize them on their social media accounts.
That means it’s helpful to both the player and the Florida program if those recruits have bigger Twitter and Instagram followings so more people can see Camps and his team’s work. And then Florida fans can show love back to the recruit, in a circular recruiting effort that can be beneficial to both sides.
“Our fan base does a really good job when kids do post items, guys out there do their own things, but in addition to the things that come from us as a program, our fans do a good job of liking, retweeting, posting, just putting positive comments about the program. We have a pretty good fan base in doing that,” Camps said.
“That’s a pretty good part of what we do because we do want our fans to show the love to the kid and let the kid know our fan base is large, it’s behind you, it’s supporting you and it allows our fans to know who we are recruiting and become familiar now before they step on campus. In the past four or five years, social has really allowed fans to get to know players beyond just their profile on a recruiting website.”
When it comes to name, image and likeness and its future influence in college football and recruiting, Camps said Florida is still in the early stages of figuring it out, pretty much like everyone else. The NCAA board of governors has until October to propose its plans and then will vote in January, giving everyone involved a clearer picture of how it will all work.
But Camps and Florida’s staff have a strategic vision for its social media involvement for NIL considerations and how they use content to attract top recruits as well. If on a visit a prospect talks about academics, focus more content in that arena. If he asks about NFL production, go that way. If he wants to know about facilities, or academic All-Americans or whatever, direct your interest that way.
College football recruiting has evolved from sending out some mail or some signed letters from coaches to micro-targeting each top prospect with a social media campaign that could entice them to that specific campus.
At least at Florida, this can all translate to name, image and likeness and be a big benefit for the Gators – and the players – over time.
“As the name, image and likeness legislation comes down, Twitter followers and things like that are going to be a big deal because kids can make money from that,” Camps said. “It’s going to be a big deal. You see kids doing it now like, ‘Hey, what fan base can get me to 5K?’ or whatever. They’re trying their best to get followers.
“I’m not sure if that’s just clout-chasing or if they see something down the road that’s going to benefit them. That’s a part of what we do. We do give kids the understanding that the University of Florida and any major big-time program is going to tell you the exposure opportunity is going to be much higher for them at a Florida, Georgia, Alabama, any big-time school. That’s a selling point and it’s going to be an even bigger selling point as we learn more about it.”
Tying together Florida’s social media strategy in recruiting and its future in name, image and likeness should be smooth because it has an established brand already, a massive fan base, living alumni of more than 400,000 and also a small-town college feel with some major metro areas within just a few hours.
Camps knows his business and NIL is coming soon to a theater near you. Content is king and Florida is positioned well.
“Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a bad thing if a kid is sharing your content,” Camps said. “These are kids who do have influence. If they don’t see it, somebody is and it may impact them as far as the message that we’re sharing.”