March 24th, 2022

Adidas Announces NIL Opportunity for College Athletes at Partnered Schools

On March 23, 2022, Adidas announced a name, image, and likeness (“NIL”) network that will be accessible to every athlete at Division I universities that partner with the company.

Adidas is the first major sports brand to offer this type of deal, which will include more than 50,000 athletes at the 109 schools currently sponsored by Adidas. The NIL program allows college athletes across 23 Division I sports to be brand ambassadors that are eligible to earn a percentage of the sales they drive to or the Adidas app via commission links, with the additional opportunity to be paid per social media post.

This is in part to the latest chapter of Adidas’ “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign, which carries the goal of creating a more equitable and inclusive future in sports. Adidas NCAA program lead, Jim Murphy, stated, “We hope to uplift student-athletes by providing educational opportunities to learn more about the NIL and business landscape, which may include bringing them into brand moments and campaigns, partnerships with existing brand athlete partners and ambassadors. But really we want to open the doors to a more equitable future outside of just unlocking monetary rewards. We want to help them grow as student-athletes and set them up for a future beyond college sports.”

The Adidas NIL program will roll out in four phases, starting with historically black colleges and universities and Power 5 schools. The program should be eligible to every Adidas-sponsored school by April 2023 according to the company.

The launch of this program stems from the United States Supreme Court’s June 2021 decision in NCAA v. Alston, where the Court threw out the NCAA’s restrictions on student-athletes receiving “education-related benefits.” The Supreme Court’s decision now allows athletes to be paid for their NIL rights while maintaining NCAA eligibility. Despite the Alston decision, the NCAA has provided very little guidance on what should and should not be permitted under NIL. In doing so, it appears NIL regulations will be left to state legislatures, universities, and possibly even athletic conferences.

Despite the unclear climate of NIL, it is vital for athletes who take advantage of Adidas’ NIL deal to follow the laws of the state, university, or conference where they are enrolled and competing. Due to the uncertainty of these rules, advice from a lawyer on how to navigate the current NIL space could prove to be quite helpful. It is also noteworthy to mention that the Adidas program is not intended to prohibit athletes from working with another brand through other or additional NIL deals. However, multiple deals with different brands can certainly create novel obstacles for young student-athletes where counseling would be wise.

The Adidas program marks the start of a new playing field in college sports. As this new NIL playing field unfolds, the attorneys at Gross McGinley, LLP are dedicated to working through avenues in the marketplace to amplify our collegiate athletes to make sure they are grounded inequitable opportunities moving forward in the NIL space.