Adidas announced that it will be launching a name, image, and likeness (NIL) network that will be open to every eligible student-athlete at an Adidas-sponsored Division I school, a first for a major sports brand. The new NIL network will have the ability to reach over 50,000 student-athletes across 23 college sports at 109 Adidas-affiliated schools. The eligible student-athletes at Adidas-sponsored schools will have the opportunity to be paid affiliate brand ambassadors through the NIL network.
“The adidas NIL network embodies our belief that sport has the power to change lives by upskilling athletes and giving them the ability to begin to experience an entrepreneurial path that will carry them beyond their college years,” said Jim Murphy, Adidas NCAA Program Lead, in a statement.
The new initiative is part of Adidas’s “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign, which is designed to promote the brand’s goal of creating a more equitable and inclusive future in sports. The NIL network will launch in four phases over the next 12 months, beginning with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Power-5 conference partners in Fall 2022, and then expanding across all other partnering schools by April 2023. The announcement of the NIL network is also tied to the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools or education programs. Men’s and women’s basketball players from Adidas-sponsored schools will be wearing shirts in this year’s March Madness tournaments, starting with the Sweet 16 round, that will read “More Is Possible” and have language from Title IX on the back of the shirts to honor the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
Adidas did not disclose the amount of compensation for the student-athletes who will participate in the NIL network. According to CNBC, the participating student-athletes will be paid a percentage of sales they generate on the Adidas website or app, as well as the ability to be paid per social media post.
The new program will enable a diverse pool of student-athletes at Adidas-sponsored schools to profit off their NIL, thus putting pressure on Adidas competitors to offer similar NIL deals. According to a recent white paper from Front Office Sports and Opendorse, brands are expected to spend more than $600 million on NIL deals in the first year since the NCAA has permitted college athletes to profit off their NIL. This Adidas-led NIL initiative will put pressure on its top competitors, like Nike and Under Armour, as well as other major brands that sponsor college sports, like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Allstate, to offer similar NIL deals. The Adidas-sponsored NIL network likely opens the floodgates for big brand NIL wars with each brand jockeying for position in the rapidly growing NIL space.
Ryan Whelpley is an Associate at Morse in Waltham, Massachusetts, where he is a member of the firm’s Corporate Practice Group and focuses on venture capital financings, M&A transactions, and general corporate work for startup and emerging growth companies. He is a graduate of Albany Law School (2019) and Union College (2016). At Union, Ryan was a member and three-year captain of the Men’s Basketball Team. You can connect with him via LinkedIn.