Incoming changes to Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) rights and regulation are set to impact college sports at every level. From recruits and student-athletes to marketing leaders, coaches, compliance staff, and even athletic directors – the changes are sure to be both a challenge and opportunity for all involved. To add an outside perspective on the incoming realities for college athletics, we looked to an industry leader with experience at multiple levels of athlete marketing – Zach Soskin.
Soskin gained experience at the grassroots football level during his time at Adidas and is now working to assist professional athletes with marketing and brand building opportunities at his firm, Voltage Management. Soskin gave us his perspective on the issues surrounding name, image, and likeness issue, and discussed how he is advising clients on both sides of the issue.
Everything we do is centered around growing the athlete’s sphere of influence and ability to generate revenue off of the field.
“I knew that moving to the athlete representation space would allow me to focus on those relationships and put my energy into helping athletes maximize their earnings, something that I’m far more passionate about than delivering value to corporate shareholders,” Soskin explained.
That passion led him to open up Voltage Management, a testament to the work he and his team hope to accomplish, by taking control of the power and putting it back in the hands of the athletes themselves.
“Everything we do is centered around growing the athlete’s sphere of influence and ability to generate revenue off of the field. While we also do some brand consulting and content production for brands, even everything we do in that space is about empowering athletes and creating content to live on the athlete’s social media channels and harness the influence of individual athletes.”
Preparing for NIL Rights in College Athletics
Soskin points to the University of Nebraska’s Ready Now program with Opendorse – built to provide NIL readiness resources to their student-athletes – as a sign of what’s to come. He believes that athletes are going to expect and demand their schools provide education and performance tools to maximize their NIL earning potential and help them succeed both during and after their playing careers are over.
The NIL rule changes are making content creators the new facilities.
“I also think you’ll see an increased emphasis on the in-house resources and creative teams at each university,” he added. “Incoming recruits understand that the better resources and content the school is able to provide for you, the better they will be able to help you build your brand and monetize your NIL.”
Much like recruiting battles and the facilities arms-race among top athletic departments, the war to claim the best social media strategy and content creators is heating up.
Oklahoma continues to raise the bar when it comes to celebrating their student athletes as individuals, and helping them build their personal brands.— Zach Soskin (@ZSoskin) December 18, 2019
Website with content and profiles of each signee, and they made every kid their own logo. Well done.https://t.co/8Tb2zetOMO pic.twitter.com/04cjJpJNat
“Oklahoma did a great job on signing day this year by creating custom logos for each of their signees and even added VR merch via IG filters,” he said. “USC just made big hires in bringing Will Stout and Jacob Brown over from LSU’s video team. The NIL rule changes are making content creators the new facilities.”
Colleges and universities that excel in these categories will educate student-athletes to understand the opportunity associated with with name, image, and likeness rights. They will help to increase their following and brand value, ultimately maximizing their earning potential. Prospective recruits will take notice of this and will likely look to it as a key factor to land their services.
“I love the schools taking the initiative to show that they understand the changes that are coming and that they are committed to helping their student-athletes. Honestly, even schools that don’t truly care will have to provide these resources just to keep up in recruiting.”
Soskin says a platform like Opendorse is essential for college and universities to provide to their student-athletes.
“It’s a must,” Soskin said. “If a school isn’t giving its athletes these tools, they are failing to give them every resource available to maximize their earning potential and are taking money out of the pockets of their student-athletes.”