Goodies Newsletter

NIL Can't Protect Your Program From The Biggest Threat To College Sports: Inequitable Access

NIL won't bring life-changing money to 100% of college athletes. So what now? Athletic departments need to invest in career preparation for their Gen Z athletes.

📝This Week's Goal: Take one of these steps toward affirming career preparation and truly arming your program.

The NIL Armor doesn't defend against inequitable access

This month's #NotNCAAProperty protests have really brought it into focus: the NCAA needs a plan for athlete unionization. In fact, Jason Belzer, co-founder of AthleticDirectorU, has said that unionization is the "the greatest existential threat to the NCAA."

Meanwhile, student-athletes, administrators, and pundits have all pitched NIL reform as the armor 🛡 that will save college sports. After all, if student-athletes have access to the revenue, they have no need to unionize.

And naturally, every student-athlete wants a piece of the NIL pie. Regardless of sport, they know that they're 1 viral video away from getting paid for their craft. In revenue-generating sports especially, NIL will expand influence and opportunity to athletes who previously haven't had the chance.

But here's the thing: NIL won't breed life-changing income for 100% of college athletes. Exploratory studies show that a small handful of athletes will become hot commodities and high-demand sponsorship opportunities. And as long as the truly life-changing opportunities of NIL flow to a small percentage of athletes, we've still got a problem.

Ignore this bloc of Gen Z athletes at your own risk. And don't be surprised when they leverage their trademark Gen Z social activism and tech savvy to damage your program.

And so athletic departments have a question to answer: How do we connect more of our student-athletes with life-changing opportunities, regardless of how much NIL cash they make?

The answer: invest in career preparation.

Gen Z is the most career-minded generation ever. In fact, 88% chose their majors with a job in mind, and job security and stability is a top priority for them. One expert on Gen Z: "They're looking for more certainty and stability because of the rise of the gig economy. They have trouble seeing a financial future and they are quite risk averse."

The question that athletic departments need to be preparing students to answer is: "What can I do to best prepare myself for success over the next ten years?" For some, that means leveraging NIL to build a personal brand, sell products, and make life-changing money while in college. For most, though, that means leveraging NIL to position themselves within their desired career fields.

NIL reform breaks down the walls that have kept athletes from accessing companies that have an interest in them, and vice versa. We must show athletes how to turn this new access into internships, interviews, and life-changing job opportunities.

👉So here is this week's Grafted Goodie:

Take one of these steps to incorporate career preparation into your NIL/brand management strategy for student-athletes:
  • Ask a student-athlete who isn't looking to the pros what they think of #NotNCAAProperty. Uncover what it would mean to not feel used and exploited, from someone who isn't putting all their eggs in the sports basket.
  • Survey letterwinners who are within 4 years removed from your department, and ask them how you could have better prepared them for their post-playing career.
  • Pitch an employer partner on the PIPELINE of high-quality employees, not just the PRODUCT of potential sponsorship.
  • Have the "What I do to best prepare myself for success over the next ten years?" convo with an athlete. Frame NIL within this context.

👀 Further reading for the smarties in the class: 🤓

• How online career communities can help you meet your 4x40 promises to student-athletes

• Spend some time with this article from the Marketing Accountability Standards Board - one of the best explanations of the NIL landscape that we've seen

• Deep dive on Gen Z's perspective on career - really helpful comparison using the movies that typify Boomer and Gen X outlooks

Get great insight from our expert team.
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