Announcing The Next Generation of Athlete Endorsements

Last week, we made one of the landmark announcements in Opendorse history. I shared a vision — one that we’ve had from the beginning — to bring the athlete endorsement industry together with the technology it needs to succeed.

We shared our vision to prepare this ecosystem for the new era of athlete endorsements… the next generation of Opendorse.

To know why this evolution is necessary, you have to understand where this industry is headed.

A New Era

The NIL market isn’t new. While the “name, image, and likeness” has become prevalent with coming policy changes in college sports, professional athletes have monetized their NIL rights for decades. Every athlete-driven social promotion, merch line, billboard, and commercial shoot… they are tied to the value of an athlete’s name, image, and likeness. 

This industry is alive and functioning with more $6 Billion spent each year on athlete endorsementsAnd for good reason — we are in the athlete-driven era of sports. 

I root for my hometown Chiefs, but I want my starting fantasy receiver to go off, too. We follow all our favorites, regardless of team affiliation. Athletes have our attention and allegiance. While they may change teams, that connection with this generation of fans remains. Because of this, aligning with athletes creates tremendous value for sponsors today. 

The market, understandably, is stacked with stakeholders to manage the demand — agents, managers, marketing reps, publicists, legal counsel, and more — all tasked with protecting athletes and maximizing opportunities. These supporters are vital to the marketing health of athletes everywhere. They are needed because this world is complex. Issues like media rights, competition clauses, FTC guidelines, guardrails instituted by each athlete’s individual organization, players union and even league… all play a role in every transaction. 

Endorsement Industry is an Evolving Ecosystem

With athletes, supporters, and marketers, this is an ecosystem in the truest sense of the word. And it’s one that is about to experience its biggest-ever evolution. In the US, there are about 5,000 athletes that really ‘move the needle’ in the endorsement industry each year. For those athletes, the endorsement process is complex and time-consuming, filled with back-and-forth phone calls, texts, emails, negotiations and more. What is managed by spreadsheets and sticky notes today has to evolve for the future. 

This market is about to change in a big, big way. And to meet the moment, the industry must advance.

In 2021, 500 thousand student-athletes will become eligible to earn compensation from their Name, Image, and Likeness.

With one rule change, the market of eligible athletes will grow by 100x. 

This is a landmark moment in sports — and it’s a great thing. 100x more athletes in the endorsement market is incredible for all involved. I truly believe athletes, schools, fans, and sponsors can all win in the NIL era.

But if the endorsement market is 100x more complex? We’re all in trouble.

Endorsements have to become easier. If they don’t, the industry will never get off the ground. Complexity will kill deals and encourage brands to bring their opportunities to other sources of influence.

The tech-driven athlete marketing era demands scale to keep up with size.
The athlete endorsement industry needs technology.
The NIL ecosystem needs infrastructure to thrive.

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