Sunday, December 5, 2021

Column: MSU Athletes, East Lansing businesses should consider local NIL Deals

July 28, 2021
Junior forward Gabe Brown (44) shoots a free throw and is immediately shoved by a Michigan guard in the second half. The Wolverines crushed the Spartans, 69-50, at Crisler Center on Mar. 4, 2021.
Junior forward Gabe Brown (44) shoots a free throw and is immediately shoved by a Michigan guard in the second half. The Wolverines crushed the Spartans, 69-50, at Crisler Center on Mar. 4, 2021. —
Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News
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As soon as the clock struck midnight on June 30 and we entered July, the landscape of college sports flipped on its head. College athletes in any sport could begin to sign endorsement deals to profit off their own Name, Image and Likeness, or NIL. 

The NCAA’s strict amateurism rules that prevented student-athletes from making money on their own brand have been removed and players are now free to sign endorsement deals for the first time ever. Seven states, Michigan included, have passed NIL legislation in their governments to accompany the NCAA’s interim NIL policy.

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

MSU also announced its own NIL program, Evergreen, which is designed to inform student-athletes about building a personal brand, making informed decisions and positioning themselves to maximize their earning power. 

Since July 1, the floodgates have opened as college athletes around the country began announcing NIL deals. Players made tweets saying they were open to endorsements and some even signed agents to manage them.

Michigan State athletes began announcing deals on social media as soon as July 1, with Kalon Gervin plugging Pedialyte on Twitter and numerous athletes telling their followers to listen to the “Locked on Spartans” podcast.

These deals were targeted at big-name players on the football team, but many deals will follow for Spartan athletes in every sport as endorsements for college athletes become more popular. 

So far, MSU athletes have signed deals with larger brands that are outside of East Lansing, but that should change very soon. Local businesses in the area should want to capitalize on the most famous athletes in the greater-Lansing area and sign them to advertise their business.

Businesses near campus rely heavily on business from students, and an effective ad campaign with the student-athletes from MSU will help increase the awareness of the business with students who can easily recognize the stars from MSU. 

For example, Magic Johnson’s first advertisement deal following his time at Michigan State was with Quality Dairy. He did a commercial to advertise a new doughnut and ice cream flavor and was in a series of photos eating ice cream that was used for advertising campaigns in the 1980s in local newspapers. 

That is the blueprint that local businesses should look at when exploring possible NIL deals today. 

There are many students that have no idea about the businesses in East Lansing when they arrive on campus, and seeing a big-name player partnered with a local business will likely lead those new students to be interested in checking them out.. 

Just imagine that you are a new student that has no idea about East Lansing outside of campus and you see someone like Gabe Brown or Peyton Thorne doing an ad for Pinball Pete’s. That will have more of an impact on new students than traditional ads or relying on word of mouth. 

That is just one example of a possible local endorsement deal for MSU athletes, but the possibilities are bountiful in the area. Here are a few that came to mind that could be pursued by East Lansing businesses right now during the uncertain frontier of student-athlete compensation.

I would love to see the Juice Squad – a.k.a. MSU’s offensive line – sign a deal with a local restaurant like the Arkansas and Wisconsin offensive line did this week. There would be no better ad for a place like Crunchy’s or Pizza House than an Instagram picture of the entire offensive line having a feast at the restaurant saying this is how they fuel their body outside of the Duffy Daugherty Building. 

Playmakers, one of the largest running stores in the country, should consider bringing in members of the MSU Track and Field team like India Johnson or Sarah Anderson to make an appearance at the annual sidewalk sale or model their running gear on social media. 

Flat, Black and Circular, a record store on Grand River Ave., should consider signing MSU athletes that make music, such as wide receiver Jahz Watts, to do ads or carry their music to sell. 

Members of the MSU hockey team could partner with Perani’s Hockey World to model the gear and post about it or even get paid to make appearances at hockey camps that are held at Suburban Ice. 

Athletes in sports that do not have a direct connection with a business or that are non-revenue sports will not receive as many opportunities to sign NIL deals and should look for creative ways to partner with businesses in East Lansing. Those deals, in turn, would help increase the awareness of those programs and players in the community. 

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Successful athletes at MSU in sports that are not highly visible still deserve recognition from the community and NIL deals. It would be amazing to see people like women’s rower Maya Elbaranes or men’s soccer star Farai Mutatu be able to capitalize on their success and fill their bank accounts. 

This is just a fraction of the possibilities for MSU athletes to profit off their own name, image and likeness with East Lansing businesses. It will be interesting to see the first domino to fall for this and the response from other businesses to try to create a mutually beneficial relationship with MSU athletes.

This article is part of our 2021 Summer Mail Home Issue. View the full digital issue here.

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