Marketing deals spill over from NCAA to high school sports
Ian Jackson and Johnuel “Boogie” Fland are among the brightest stars in high school basketball and now have trade deals to prove it.
Teenagers and friendly rivals in New York cash in on their name, image, and likeness through marketing deals often referred to as NIL deals. The contracts began to trickle down to the high school level after the NCAA’s decision last year to allow college athletes to monetize their stardom.
So far, seven states have approved agreements for prep athletes. Other states, such as Ohio, continue to debate whether NILs would taint high school sports.
Jackson and Fland, who are both ranked as top college nominees for the Class of 2024, receive a percentage of sales on products from a merchandise company bearing their likeness and four-figure monthly checks to post about the brand on the social networks.
Jackson, 16, said he was saving money he earned from merchandise company Spreadshop and several other deals to buy a house for his family.
“I want to put my family in a better place,” Jackson said.
Fland, 15, also said he wanted to help his family.
“It was a really big deal,” he said. “All the hard work is finally paying off.”
In Ohio, high school principals began voting May 1 on whether to amend the state’s high school athletic association bylaws to allow athletes to sign agreements.
“A lot of us here at OHSAA and school administrators don’t like NIL,” said Ohio High School Athletic Association spokesman Tim Stried. “We would have liked not to have to deal with this, but it is not going away. We can help shape it or do what the NCAA did and fight it until it is otherwise.
Karissa Niehoff, CEO of the National Federation of State High School Associations, said NIL rights for high school athletes could prove disruptive, but she tempered her criticism by saying, “I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of that. ”
High school, Niehoff said, “is not meant to be an opportunity to earn a living, and we hope it stays that way.”
The issue of NIL agreements for high school athletes follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June that the NCAA cannot restrict education-related compensation for the estimated 500,000 college student-athletes. from the country. Since then, Alaska, California, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Louisiana, and Utah have created laws or policies allowing NIL compensation for high school athletes.
Jackson, who attends Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, is represented by his AAU coach. Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, New York, has hired a marketing consultant to help Fland and other students at the school with NIL deals.
Generally, college and high school athletes can use sports agents to market their name, image, and likeness, but they are not allowed to hire agents to represent them professionally without jeopardizing their eligibility. The standard fee for marketing agents is 15-20% of an athlete’s NIL contract.
High school athletic associations in states where NIL agreements are permitted prohibit students from using their school name and team logos in any agreements they enter into.
In Florida, high school athletes aren’t allowed to enjoy their fame. But Laney Higgins, a senior volleyball player at Carrollwood Day School in Lake Magdalene, struck a deal after her season ended that allowed her to donate her earnings to a concussion center that took care of.
She signed with Q30 Innovations, a Connecticut company that produces devices to help reduce brain damage, after suffering numerous concussions while playing her sport. She donates proceeds to the University of South Florida Concussion Center in Tampa.
Higgins is continuing his volleyball career at Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven, Georgia this fall.
“Brands will continue to see that female student athletes can achieve their goals in a unique and authentic way, because the biggest name doesn’t always mean the greatest success,” Higgins said.
According to the latest data collected by Opendorse Deals, a company that officials say has helped connect 100,000 college athletes to third parties for NIL deals, the average payout has been low so far. Division I athletes with at least one deal earned about $664 on average, according to the data. For Division II athletes it’s $59 and only $43 in Division III.
Nearly 70% of transactions involve social media posts, according to data from Opendorse.
David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports business at Ohio University, views the ability of student-athletes to benefit financially as a civil rights issue. Athletes are not employees of the schools they attend and should not be prevented from earning money, he said, adding that the amounts will not be large but could put “a few extra dollars in their pockets”.
“In my opinion, it’s all been positive,” Ridpath said. “College and, by extension, high school athletes are not employees and should not be restricted to a market where they have value.”
Basketball phenom Mikey Williams is among the exclusive group of high school athletes who have signed lucrative deals with NIL. Williams, who will play his senior year at San Ysidro High School in San Diego, signed a deal with athletic shoe and apparel maker Puma for an undisclosed fee while attending an athletic academy in Florida.
Former Texas high school football star Quinn Ewers is another exception to the low-income norm. The highly touted quarterback opted to forgo his senior year to enroll at Ohio State University early last year, a move that landed him a $1.4 million deal in NIL contracts before arriving on campus last summer. Ewers played just two meaningless snaps for the Buckeyes last season before opting to transfer to the University of Texas.
Matthew Mitten, a sports law professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said there were potential pitfalls in NIL agreements at the high school and college levels, which he called “the last bastion of amateurism”. .
Mitten noted that University of Texas alumni and supporters announced in December that up to 16 scholarship-winning football offensive linemen would each receive $50,000 beginning in August to support charitable causes.
“It’s almost become a de facto payment for playing,” Mitten said.
Mitten and others question the effect NIL opportunities might have on the prohibited but not uncommon practice of high schools recruiting athletes. He raised the possibility that wealthy private high school alumni could copy the University of Texas alumni model.
Mitten and others say parents of high school athletes should be made aware of NIL agreements to protect their children if an opportunity arises.
“I think they’re going to have to be careful,” Mitten said. “There are a lot of legal issues that minors and their parents and guardians don’t know about.”