College Athletes! Want To Maximize Your NIL Bill Potential? Here's How Autograph Signings Can Help!
July 07, 20218 min read
July 1, 2021 the NCAA finally allowed all college athletes to profit from their Name, Image, and Likeness better known as the NIL. Previously, this would have been considered a major infraction and would have made the athletes ineligible to compete in college athletics.
This video isn’t going to be about if this is right or wrong for college athletics. What this video is going to be about is what would I do if I were a college to optimize my NIL while I was in college. My experience of course is centered around sports memorabilia mainly autograph signings, so that is what this video will be tailored around.
These are just my own thoughts on what I would do knowing what I know now about the autograph industry. There will be many different ways these athletes can profit off of their NIL and each athlete should do what is best for them. If you are a current college athlete looking to profit off your NIL, I hope this video helps you. Each state will have its own laws on what is legal and what is not, so be sure and check with your athletic department first to make sure you are do things the right way.
Without any further wait, let’s jump into this one!
Of course, the most popular athletes on each team will profit the most from the NIL bill. The star QB, wide receiver, running back, or even a star defensive player. While they are probably the 2nd most important positions on the field outside of the QB, the offensive and defensive lineman probably won’t see much love in most cases. But that doesn’t mean they can’t profit off the NIL. You will just have to get a little creative which I will talk about in just a bit.
First off, let’s talk about autograph signings as that is where most of my experience is. The best players on the best programs will probably be approached to sign autographs. Whether it be a public autograph signing where you go to someone’s memorabilia store or you do a private signing where there is no public interaction. Or maybe you do a signing at a car dealership to drive traffic to their business. Either way, you get paid to sign autographs which is pretty damn cool. Very few people get to experience that so enjoy it while the opportunity is there.
Some of the big-time guys may even sign NIL deals with some of the bigger players like Vayner Sports, Gary V’s sports marketing agency, but that is only going to be a handful of guys. The 1% of 1% of 1%.
How would I handle this if I was approached to sign an autograph deal in college? Well, that depends on who you are and how much of a risk taker you are.
Big time guys, the safe and easy way is to sign with an agency to handle all of your stuff. They have the most connections and systems in place to give you the most exposure and opportunity. If I got presented with that opportunity, I would take it and never look back. Focus on your sport and have these guys handle everything off the field.
But let’s talk about the guys who aren’t 1st round picks which are the majority of guys, the other 99%. What if you are a pretty good QB at say Missouri or Iowa. Good programs, but not programs like Alabama, USC, LSU, or Texas from a national follower perspective. Or maybe you are one of those linemen I just talked about. How can you profit off the NIL in relation to autograph signings?
Here is exactly what I would do, assuming I was a halfway decent player and had a bit of a social media following. There has to be a few people out there who want my autograph in order for this to work.
Rather than sign an autograph deal to go someone’s memorabilia store to sign autographs and get paid once, I would just do this whole thing myself. Cut them out of it and sell my own autographs. Think about it, you could get paid $5 or $10 for your autograph from them and watch them sell it for $30-40, or you could sell them yourself and make that $30-$40 per auto.
Yes, you could still do paid signings with other companies, but I would focus the majority of my efforts on running my own show online. Here’s why.
#1 – You are young.
Most likely 18-21 years old. This is your one chance to start a business, screw up if you do, and still have a roof over your head and food on your table. You have the ultimate safety blanket right now, your scholarship. No matter what happens in your business, your main things in life are taken care of, food, clothing, water and shelter. This is your one chance to go big and be aggressive.
Here is how I would get it started. I’ve made a whole previous video on this in depth about how to get your own sports memorabilia company started, so feel free to go back and watch that.
But use your social media following to get you started. Instagam, Tik Tok, Twitter, whatever platform you use, do it there. What should you do on there? Give your fans access to things they don’t normally see. Such as inside team meetings, in the video room, in the hotel, talking with other players. Give them some fun and family friendly entertainment and insight they don’t normally get. Build your social media platform off of that. Ever see Tom Brady after a big win? He jumps on Instagram and does a quick video about the game. Fans love that stuff. This is the type of social media posts that will gain you followers and increase the potential want for your autograph.
Next, I would make a small investment in getting a website up and running. Start it on Shopify for under $100. Get you a legit and running website, a place where people can place orders and you can stay organized. Set up your eBay account also.
Then I would start pre-selling the heck out of my autograph. Have photos, helmets, footballs all available for sale. Run it for a few weeks right until the season starts. Keep in mind you may or may not be able to use your schools logo for marketing so something you will want to double check with your compliance department on.
Then, after you done with your pre-sale, go and buy all the product that you sold and sign it. This way you have all the money in hand and you are not struggling to buy all this product beforehand. You could offer special inscriptions such as HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GO TEAM, etc.
Once you get the product, have a student pack and ship all your orders and pay them per order. Run it out of your dorm room or wherever you have space.
Have a big game on Saturday? Run a special right after it where you can inscribe your stats on a photo or another item. Have it ready to ship Monday. Fans love instant gratification like that. Imagine getting that photo in your mail box on Tuesday or Wednesday?
Wash, rinse, repeat each week. Never out money.
#2 – Why are we doing it this way? Doesn’t it seem like a lot of work?
Yes, it is. I am sorry but there is no way around it in life. You must work hard to get anywhere in life. But we aren’t doing this to make money for ourselves initially. Yes, that is the short-term goal and we will make some money.
But this is why we are doing it. We are proving our business model.
The goal is to end up doing this same process for all future athletes coming out of your college and other schools. What you are creating now is proof to other athletes coming up in the ranks that you can take care of their orders, build them a website that makes money, and processes all their merchandise. Not just autographs, but hats, shirts, etc. Whatever it is athletes want to sell. You are now the fulfillment house for them.
Guess what? Since you played football at the school, you now have an instant in with the coaching staff, players, and athletic department. Giving you access to all the future athletes. Imagine if a future #1 pick comes to your school and the number of possibilities with them? Endless.
Look at it this way. Football or whatever sport you are playing probably won’t pan out. You aren’t making the league. Numbers just aren’t in your favor.
But, if you can prove this model at your school in the 1-4 years you are there, you can have a job that you created waiting for you when you graduate.
But Matt, why wouldn’t they just go use a fulfillment house that is already set up? Why trust a new person?
Because people do business with people they trust and are in their inner circle. As a former football player, you know everything about that program. What charity events there are, who the big donors are and what businesses they run. You have an inside look at how to maximize your future customers marketing and fulfillment needs because you have done it yourself.
Also, if you were somewhat decent at your sport and had experience signing autographs for all these local sports memorabilia dealers or car dealerships, you would know what to ask payment wise and would have inside information on how the operation works. No fulfillment house has that info and can work on the athlete’s behalf.
#3 How can you profit from NIL if no one wants to pay for your autograph?
Say you are an offensive lineman on the #1 team in the nation. Most likely, no one will pay you for your autograph. However, there are several players on your team whose autograph is in demand. Why not approach your teammates and offer your services to them? You manage their website and order processing like I talked about above and take a % of each sale.
You can help them manage booking their outside events, run their schedule, and even find new revenue streams for them. Again, this is all about building up your business for the long term and proving the business model works.
Side note, athletes I believe are required to tell their school if they have signed with an agent, so you may want to double check with your compliance department that what you are doing for the athlete is legal and doesn’t require any paperwork and is following the new law.
Lots of opportunity out there right now for college athletes to start building their personal brand. Very exciting stuff. This is what America is all about, these great opportunities that you can either excel or fail at, but at least you got the chance.
If I were a college athlete right now, I would find out where I should devout my time so I can take full advantage of the new NIL bill. Whether that be building my own brand or helping my teammates do that. I really think there is a huge opportunity for those 99% who aren’t going to be a professional athlete, to help those who potentially are, be as successful off the field as they can when it comes to their autograph signings and other marketing ventures.
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