Ready For More: How the Past Decade has Prepared Opendorse for the Future of Name, Image, and Likeness Rights

On March 10, 2020, we announced our partnership with Nebraska Athletics, debuting the Opendorse Ready™ program to the college sports world. The goal — to help student-athletes, coaches, and administrators at all levels prepare for the coming changes to name, image and likeness rights policies that have long limited the earning potential for NCAA athletes. 

We had a handful of additional schools in the hopper, ready to announce intentions to help their student-athletes maximize their NIL value with Opendorse Ready.

On March 12, 2020, the NCAA canceled remaining winter and spring sports championships, turning the days and weeks normally reserved for March Madness into mayhem on campuses across the country. As athletic directors and department leaders shifted their focus from NIL to COVID, we shifted our focus from ‘getting started today’ to ‘getting prepared for tomorrow’. 

As 2020 can demonstrate, it’s hard to know what tomorrow will bring.

But when it comes to NIL, we’re confident having conversations about the future — because we believe it will be a reflection of our past.

We’ve Been Here Before

On November 15, 2012…

I gave a presentation to a few hundred student-athletes at Nebraska titled ‘social media responsibility’.

The 45-minute time slot stretched to nearly an hour and a half as we discussed ‘becoming a social media superstar’ and ‘using social media as a marketing tool’. Over the eight years since that seminar, we’ve educated thousands of athletes on the importance of using social media to grow their audience and build their brand.

We began educating athletes on successful social media strategy in 2012

Preparing athletes to maximize their NIL value starts with education — something we’ve been doing since 2012.

On August 19, 2015…

Darren Rovell published a story to ESPN with the headline “LeBron James-sponsored tweets valued at $140K”.

I remember where I was when Darren called me to get a quote for the story. Halfway between Kansas City and Lincoln, Nebraska is Mound City, Missouri, a small town with a gas station and a better-than-average McDonalds. After pulling out of the McD’s drive-thru, Darren buzzed my cell and we discussed the methodology of assessing the value of one post from the @KingJames Twitter account.

Over the five years following that call, we’ve educated hundreds of sports business leaders on how to use big data to determine the NIL value of any athlete’s online presence. 

Helping the industry understand NIL value starts with broadcasting your findings (and backing them up with real-world data and transactions) — something we’ve been doing since 2015.

On February 1-3, 2014…

More than 80 different professional athletes published branded content to Twitter promoting OYO Sports, hyping up the officially licensed product the days before and during Super Bowl XLVIII. Eventual world champion Golden Tate was the highlight for me, as his Tweet kicked off the campaign.

Behind the Tweets, Opendorse was working overtime. The campaign featured 84 different athletes from 8 different sports, represented by more than 40 different talent agencies.

Our platform automated the entire workflow for all parties involved from the pitch, to publish, to payment — and the whole thing went off without a hitch. It was the biggest campaign in the young history of Opendorse, and one that I remain incredibly proud of.

In the six years since that day, we’ve coordinated tens of thousands of campaigns of varying shapes and sizes, ensuring athletes are always in the best position to monetize their NIL value.

To help athletes monetize NIL at scale, you’ve got to have the technology to manage the complexity and chaos that comes with it — something we’ve been doing since 2014.

Ready For What’s To Come

In the 150 days since we introduced the Ready program, we’ve had conversations with more than 100 college athletic departments. We’ve outlined what to expect in the NIL era, emphasizing the need for education solutions, valuation and data solutions, and ultimately, a technology to provide compliance and visibility into NIL activities and transactions. 

Since our announcement, additional service providers have emerged to help athletic departments prepare for the NIL era. Education, valuation, data, and compliance solutions are going to continue to pop up as the market matures.

We’re excited to see others joining the fight — it takes a village to support athletes in their journey to understand, maximize, and monetize their NIL value. 

But while many solutions may be focused on the next 10 months, I’ve urged our partners to think about the next 10 years.

To understand the foundation they are building today will last well into the future: a reality where student-athletes will be earning compensation for use of their name, image, and likeness. When the dollars start flowing, the complexities will emerge. The chaos will come for college campuses and the simple NIL solutions today will be overpowered by the sophistication that comes when you introduce sports stars to sponsorship opportunities.

We know what’s coming to college sports. 

Education, marketing, reporting, monitoring, valuation, regulation, registration, disclosure, access, administration — services, and technology. Each is present in the athlete endorsement ecosystem that is rapidly approaching college athletics. Every school will need these things to succeed in the next decade. 

We’ve been building these skills and solutions over the past decade. They are all part of the Ready program — which combines battle-tested solutions from our past to prepare partners for the future. 

Change is coming in a hurry. And Opendorse will be right here, just as we have for the last decade. We will lean on experience to inform our future and build solutions that last — doing everything in our power to assist athletes and prepare partners to meet this moment head-on. 

You can feel the momentum building behind this movement — the understanding that NIL readiness will be table-stakes in college sports. And I’m proud to be part of this preparation period alongside the most forward-thinking leaders across the country.

Today, I’m honored to welcome Indiana and Fresno State to the Ready program, and look forward to announcing new partners in the coming weeks.



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