Jumping into the NIL era with Adrian Martinez

July 1, 2021 brought immediate change to college athletics when student-athletes across the country could finally capitalize on name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities. University of Nebraska athletes were ready because they had been formally preparing for the new era since March 10, 2020. 

Huskers starting quarterback Adrian Martinez has led the charge by starting a podcast, creating merchandise, and partnering with brands on a local, regional and national level. We caught up with Adrian to talk about the impact NIL has had on him personally and what he’s learned during these past three months. 

“I wasn’t sure what to expect from NIL,” Martinez said. “It’s a little bit of the ‘Wild, Wild West.’ No one really knew what to expect, but luckily we have Opendorse in our backyard. We have a lot of people inside at the University of Nebraska helping us athletes, and it’s been filled with nothing but great opportunities.” 

Martinez is a star with professional aspirations, but the reality is that only about 2% of student-athletes end up going pro in their sport. The NIL era allows for that group, plus the other 98%, to capitalize on their highest level of competition. Great opportunities exist for every athlete that wishes to explore monetizing their NIL. 

“[Opendorse has] allowed me to talk with people, meet people, that I would have never been able to before.” he said. “Open some doors for me that weren’t open before. That’s what it’s about. I’m going to have a career after football, but this gives me the opportunity to explore a lot of those avenues.” 

On the brand side, NIL changes have given businesses a chance to connect with athletes so they can play a role in their marketing strategy. This is something that many local businesses couldn’t do prior to July 1. 

Lincoln might not be a traditional “big market,” but Martinez says, “It’s no secret that Nebraska is one of the leaders of NIL, not only the university but the state. With the amount of support [fans] show student-athletes and the opportunities they are willing to give to student-athletes locally in Lincoln, there have been countless companies that have worked with athletes, including myself. We’re fortunate for that. There’s a real sense of community here.” 

Supporting and engaging with that community is key, something Martinez focused on as he built his NIL strategy. 

“Explore local,” he said. “There are more local businesses than you’d know that are willing to help student athletes out, willing to give them that opportunity to share on social media, to spread awareness about their business. There are so many opportunities out there, and definitely some that will be perfect.” 

From the local to national level, Martinez’s endorsement profile has included: 

+ Podcast: Athlete Unfiltered 

Kumawave Merchandise 

+ Local restaurant: Bison Witches 

+ Regional bank: First National Bank Omaha (FNBO) 

+ National cosmetic: Degree’s #BreakingLimits Campaign 

+ National beverage: Pepsi 

We dove in to ask his take on a few of NIL opportunities he’s participated in to date. 

Degree: 

“I was lucky to partner with Degree and it wasn’t necessarily because of my on-field performance. They partnered with me because of some of the other things I had experienced in life. That was all facilitated through Opendorse. So really, for a lot of these companies that I may not have had access to, that I wouldn’t know how to reach and they wouldn’t know how to reach me, Opendorse has been the perfect middleman. That’s helped me a ton.” 

Podcast:  

“More than anything with the podcast, it’s just the ability to do it. The ability to make money from it and to do something off the field that I can express myself. I can share my opinion and people can learn a little bit more about me, the face underneath the helmet. The podcast has been awesome.”  

Merchandise: 

“I have an opportunity right now that I may never have again. To create [a product] like the shirts is something that I couldn’t pass up. And to do it with a company that has a great local following—really good people involved with Kumawave—I’m just excited about it. It’s something cool that I can have forever and share with my family.” 

Martinez’s biggest piece of advice for other student-athletes navigating opportunities is, “Know your worth. That’s the big thing for me. Not every deal is meant to be. You don’t have to force it. Some things will happen naturally, others you may have to go reach out. But if you don’t reach out, you may never know if you have that opportunity.” 

And he is also quick to point out the importance of making sure school and athletic responsibilities remain the primary focus, but Opendorse helps make NIL easy. 

“It’s hard to call [Opendorse] anything else besides a lifesaver,” Martinez said. “It’s been huge for me with all the stress of the football season and the countless things on my mind, including school. Opendorse has made NIL easy, which is huge for me. It makes things easy to post, makes it easy to interact with businesses. You can kind of gauge where you’re at as far as market value, there’s a lot of things that help me as a student-athlete. I don’t know what I’d do without it.” 

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