Illinois Athletics Launches INFLUENCE to prepare athletes for NIL changes

Illinois tabs Opendorse Ready™ to provide student-athletes with technology, educational resources in preparation for name, image, and likeness

The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced today the launch of INFLUENCE powered by Opendorse Ready, the market-leading Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) readiness program. Available to all Illinois student-athletes, INFLUENCE is a comprehensive student-athlete development program designed to prepare Illini student-athletes to positively influence their brands and platforms in the Name, Image, and Likeness world. The program is grounded in education, development, and practice in three foundational areas: Brand Strategy & Development, Business Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and Financial Literacy. With experience maximizing endorsement value for thousands of professional athletes since 2012, Opendorse Ready provides proven marketing solutions to prepare student-athletes for coming changes to NIL policy.

“The NIL movement will produce leaders and followers in college athletics – and this program puts Illinois in position to lead in this new era,” said Illinois Football Head Coach Bret Bielema. “We are excited about the continued partnership with Opendorse and the opportunities that are ahead for our student-athletes to develop their personal brand. Opendorse will help every student-athlete in our program prepare for NIL from the moment they are recruited all the way through their time as an Illini and beyond.”

Each participating athlete receives a comprehensive assessment detailing social media performance.

The agreement positions Illinois among the first 20 athletic departments nationwide to join Opendorse Ready. The Fighting Illini join Clemson, Florida, Nebraska, and Louisville, among others. By joining now, Illinois Athletics is able to bring the NIL readiness solutions to every student-athlete at the University. The program provides three core pillars to student-athlete success: Assessment, Education, and Performance – tailored to assist each individual athlete.

“We are embarking on a new frontier for our student-athletes, where they gain complete control over use of their own likeness for commercial purposes,” Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said. “Partnering with Opendorse, the market leader in this dynamic and evolving space, allows us to facilitate greater education and training for our student-athletes, while also providing a user-friendly platform to navigate the nuances of building a brand, learning business practices, and improving financial literacy.”

“It’s incredibly rewarding to expand on our longterm partnership with Illinois Athletics,” Opendorse CEO Blake Lawrence said. “This program has embraced the value of building student-athletes’ personal brands for years, and is now ready to bring their athletes even more value as we enter the NIL era.”

Founded by Nebraska Football alumni Blake Lawrence and Adi Kunalic, Opendorse has become a proven market leader in helping sports organizations and their athletes prepare and execute social media programs to increase the value of their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL). More than 30,000 athletes currently use Opendorse to maximize their endorsement value in collaboration with partners on social media. Opendorse has partnered with the NHL, NFLPA, NBPA, PGA Tour, and others while brands like Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, and EA Sports also use the platform.



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