NCAA Student Athlete Checklist

Under the name, image, and likeness rules adopted by the NCAA and several state legislatures, college athletes now can take advantage of a tremendous amount of potential business opportunities that can have lasting impacts on their lives. But business is complicated, and success can depend on anyone’s decision.

As you prepare for the minefield of business decisions and negotiations at your disposal, the following is a checklist of issues to watch in various areas of your new business journey:

Social Media

Businesses want to leverage your status as a student-athlete and advertise to your social media followings. This is the case for star players in elite programs, athletes on smaller, non-revenue generating programs, and athletes with social media influence. When approached for a social media endorsement deal, some red flags we watch for you include:

  • Excessive requirements related to posting minimums. In addition to creating unreasonable, time-consuming hurdles to collect your pay, these can harm your long-term earning potential as spammy social media feeds take a toll on your personal brand.
  • Morality clauses can create new limitations on your ability to be yourself on social media, including censoring or restricting reasonable communications and your ability to create an authentic brand online.
  • Restrictions on speech can also extend to social and political speech, as brands seek to distance themselves from polarizing topics. In an era of activism, this can prevent you from pursuing causes that are important to you if not addressed during negotiations. 

Outside Expertise

While a lawyer can negotiate endorsement agreements with companies looking to use your name, image, and likeness, you may also want the advice of other outside experts, including accountants, financial managers, public relations specialists, web designers and more. As we work with you to negotiate these arrangements, some key issues we will watch include:

  • Restrictions under the NCAA’s rules on language in contracts suggest any long-term arrangements that extend beyond your collegiate career and into the big leagues.
  • Restrictions under federal and applicable state laws.
  • Assessing deliverables, fee structures, indemnity clauses, and other key contractual considerations when working with sophisticated service providers.
  • Establishing a team of supporting providers that help meet your overall business goals. 

University Trademarks

Your university has a lot of brand equity tied to its logo, slogans, mascots, fight song and more. It has spent significant resources to protect this valuable intellectual property, which introduces questions we can help answer as businesses ask you to showcase your school affiliation, such as:

  • Can I wear my uniform in an advertisement?
  • Are my school’s logos and color scheme allowed to be included in my ads?
  • Can I say my school’s slogans or other well-known phrases online or in a commercial?
  • Will I be allowed to use video or photos of me with our mascot in other businesses’ ads?

Long-Term Planning

Whether signing a deal for a few social media posts or for the remainder of your college career, the agreements you sign now could have a lasting impact well after you’ve graduated or moved on to the professional ranks. As you plan for the long haul, we will help you look at the big picture by considering a range of factors, including:

  • Contract terms favorable to your personal brand.
  • Compensation structures that optimize long-term earning potential.
  • Business partners conducive to succeeding in your overall strategic plan.
  • Agreements compliant with NCAA rules to avoid penalties or negative publicity.
  • Ensuring agreements don’t violate the rules of professional sports leagues that could have an impact on your post-collegiate career.

Proactive Marketing

As you seek to build your personal brand outside of existing endorsements, including proactively soliciting new deals with local and online businesses, it is important to do so in a way that complies with the rules set forth by the NCAA and, more generally, state and federal governments. Top issues to watch as you market yourself include:

  • Types of endorsements barred by the NCAA rules and regulations or imposed by states and individual universities, such as those promoting tobacco, alcohol and gambling products.
  • Understanding commercial communications requirements under your university’s policy, NCAA guidelines, prior endorsement deals and other binding agreements.
  • Positioning yourself and your brand to grow and develop in the years ahead.

Group Endorsements

Your teammates may want to partner with you off the field and co-sign endorsement deals with you. When finalizing business agreements between a business and multiple parties, the negotiation process becomes more complicated. New challenges that arise from opportunities involving multiple athletes include:

  • Negotiating your own interests against a business while a third-party may have their own, different priorities.
  • Attorney-client privilege application when a teammate enters the conversation.
  • Working within the confines of group licensing agreements arranged by your university.
  • Establishing a rate for group endorsements that is fair and equitable.
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About Burr & Forman Sports Law

The Burr & Forman Sports Law team includes attorneys from a variety of legal and college athletic backgrounds, who provide counsel on marketing, licensing and other agreements. The team, which includes NFLPA certified contract advisors, has represented professional athletes in marketing and other deals, negotiated NIL contracts with NCAA coaching legends, represented professional sports organizations, and negotiated deals with major sporting television networks.

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