Column: MSU Athletes and East Lansing Corporations Should Consider Local NIL Deals

Chloe Trofatter | The state news

As soon as the clock struck midnight on June 30th and we stepped into July, the college sports landscape was turned upside down. College athletes in any sport could start signing advertising contracts to benefit from their own name, image and likeness, or NIL.

The NCAA’s strict amateur rules that prevented student athletes from making money from their own brand have been removed and players can now sign advertising contracts for the first time. Seven states, including Michigan, have passed NIL laws in their governments to accompany the NCAA’s interim NIL policy.

Michigan State has been preparing for this moment since Michigan passed the bill in December 2020. MSU Athletics partnered with the Burgess Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation this spring to teach student athletes how to navigate the market and build a brand.

MSU also announced its own NIL program, Evergreen, designed to educate student-athletes on building a personal brand, making informed decisions, and positioning yourself to maximize profitability.

The floodgates have opened since July 1 when college athletes across the country began to announce NIL deals. Players tweeted saying they were open to referrals and some even signed agents to manage them.

Michigan state athletes began announcing offers on social media as early as July 1, with Kalon Gervin following Pedialyte on Twitter and asking numerous athletes to listen to the “Locked on Spartans” podcast.

These offers were aimed at well-known players on the soccer team, but many offers for spartan athletes in each sport will follow as the advertising of college athletes grows in popularity.

So far, MSU athletes have signed deals with major brands outside of East Lansing, but that should change very soon. Local businesses in the area should take advantage of and engage the most famous athletes in the greater Lansing area to promote their business.

Businesses near campus rely heavily on student business, and an effective promotional campaign with MSU’s student athletes will help raise the company’s profile with students who can easily spot MSU’s stars.

For example, Magic Johnson’s first advertising deal after his time at Michigan State was with Quality Dairy. He did a commercial to promote a new flavor of donut and ice cream and was featured in a series of photos of ice cream being eaten that was used for advertising campaigns in local newspapers in the 1980s.

This is the blueprint local businesses should consider when exploring potential NIL deals today.

There are plenty of students who are clueless about East Lansing companies by the time they arrive on campus, and if a big name player works with a local company these new students will likely be interested in trying them out.

Imagine you’re a new student who has no clue about East Lansing off campus and you see someone like Gabe Brown or Peyton Thorne doing an ad for Pinball Pete. That affects new students more than traditional ads or relying on word of mouth.

This is just one example of a possible local MSU athlete promotion contract, but the area is plentiful. Here are a few that have crossed my mind that East Lansing companies might pursue right now during the uncertain boundary of student and athlete compensation.

I’d love to see the Juice Squad – also known as the MSU Offensive Line – sign a contract with a local restaurant like the Arkansas and Wisconsin Offensive Line did this week. There is no better advertisement for a place like Crunchy’s or Pizza House than an Instagram picture of the entire offensive line having a celebratory meal in the restaurant saying that is how they fuel their bodies outside the Duffy Daugherty building.

Playmakers, one of the largest running shops in the country, should consider bringing in MSU track and field team members like India Johnson or Sarah Anderson to perform at the annual street sale or model their running clothes on social media.

Flat, Black and Circular, a record store on Grand River Ave., should consider engaging MSU athletes who make music, like the wide receiver Jahz Watts, to run ads or sell their music.

Members of the MSU hockey team could work with Perani’s Hockey World to model and post about the equipment, or even get paid to perform at hockey camps at Suburban Ice.

Athletes in sports who have no direct company affiliation or are non-revenue sports aren’t given as many opportunities to sign NIL deals and should look for creative ways to partner with companies in East Lansing. These deals would in turn help increase awareness of these programs and players in the community.

Successful athletes at MSU in sports that aren’t very visible still deserve recognition from the community and NIL deals. It would be amazing if people like rower Maya Elbaranes or soccer star Farai Mutatu could benefit from their success and fill their bank accounts.

This is only a fraction of the opportunities for MSU athletes to benefit from their own name, image and likeness with East Lansing companies. It will be interesting to see the first domino falling on this and the reaction of other companies to build mutually beneficial relationships with MSU athletes.

This article is part of our Sommerpost home edition 2021. View the full digital edition here.


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