Building a Strong Foundation to Maximize the NIL Era with Matt Henningsen

July 1, 2021, came quick. Athletic departments scrambled to write NIL policies and provide student-athletes with education on these new rules while they were on summer break. Wisconsin Football fifth-year senior Matt Henningsen shared how he plays by the rules and maximized his NIL opportunity.

Before getting into NIL, Henningsen asked questions about all the do’s and don’ts. Going into his final season, the last thing he wanted was to get in trouble, so he took things seriously. He was engaged and communicated concerns during Wisconsin’s Opendorse Ready™ sessions and asked questions to the Opendorse staff members.

“I wanted to make sure I knew all the rules before getting into anything,” he said. “Opendorse was helpful with that. I talked with Blake and some of the other employees at Opendorse helping us out to understand what we can and can’t do, what can get us sued, what could get us in trouble, and what we can do to help benefit from it. That was really helpful for me trying to get my foot in the door with getting my name, image, and likeness out there and trying to benefit from it myself.”

Henningsen’s advice for other athletes navigating NIL rules is to make sure the deals you’re doing are fair for you. Be strict with brands and let them know exactly what they can and cannot do. Encourage them to review your school’s NIL policy as well; many student-athletes know their policy, however not every business knows rules schools have in place.

“Make sure when you’re doing deals and signing off to give someone permission to use your name, use a picture of you, use an image of you, use a video of you, whatever is associated with you to promote something, that it is just you and nothing else,” Henningsen explained. “And they’re only using you, and they’re not using more than you allowed them, you’re not letting them associate your name with something you don’t want to be associated with. You want to make sure everything is fair and is good for you.”

Performance on the Field Leads to Audience Growth

The most effective way Henningsen has grown his social media presence and personal brand is by performing on the field, maintaining good grades in the classroom, and being involved in his local community. 

“The main thing when it comes to building your brand is performing on the field and doing your job in the classroom, doing everything the right way. That is – plain and simple – the easiest way to do it and the best way to do it. If you’re winning on the field, you’re a team player, you’re performing in the classroom, and you’re doing stuff in the community, you build a reputation [as] a good person then the opportunities will come to you.”

Henningsen noted that he hasn’t always been the most active on social media, but has ramped up his efforts over the years.

“Building my brand on social media is something I lacked my first couple of years and is something I’ve been picking up a little bit now,” he admitted. “Getting on Instagram and being more active with that kind of stuff, that always helps. But at the end of the day, the biggest thing for me for building my brand was just doing my best to become the best I can be at football and in the classroom.”

Helping Time Management

NIL has helped Henningsen regain time so he can get back to focusing on performance on the field and classroom.

“July was when I got started with trying to make deals and trying to make a couple of extra bucks to help myself. What [NIL] has done is freed my schedule up for the season because I’m not as worried about money and getting my next meal or getting enough nutrition during the day. I’m able to invest a lot more into myself when it comes to fueling my body with the right supplements and things like that. That’s something NIL has definitely helped with: time management.”

And to get even more time back, he has done some of his NIL opportunities through Opendorse.

“My biggest deal was negotiated through Opendorse,” Henningsen said. “That was very helpful and they were very helpful to make sure the contract terms were fair. Opendorse has a standard contract that allows the contract to end at specific times and makes sure they don’t have your name, image and likeness rights in perpetuity in any way. They make sure everything has a set end date and is completely clear on what you can and can’t use for promoting whatever product or brand using my name, image, or likeness. That was very helpful through Opendorse, and obviously reading everything and knowing what you’re getting yourself into, making sure you know what you’re going to be associated with.”

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