The essential NIL dictionary

GSE Money in the Making

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Every industry has its own language and for college athletes, the realm of NIL, or "Name, Image, and Likeness", is no exception. With recent and ongoing changes in regulations, college athletes now have the opportunity to become an entrepreneur – and profit from their personal brand. This might introduce you to a maze of unfamiliar jargon, especially during contract negotiations. But fear not. This guide is your key to decoding the complex language of NIL deals — so you can help maximize your potential earnings and become fluent in the business of being you.

Below is your easy-to-understand guide to all the key terms related to NIL.


The ABCs of NIL terminology

Amendment and modification: Outlines the process and requirements for making changes or modifications to the contract, ensuring that any modifications are agreed upon by both parties in writing.

Appearance fee: A payment made to an athlete for making an appearance at an event, such as a store opening, autograph signing, or speaking engagement.

Arbitration: If you and the brand can't agree on something, an impartial third party (the arbitrator) makes a binding decision to resolve the conflict between the parties. It’s a way to avoid going to court.

Assignment and transfer: Refers to whether the contract can be assigned or transferred to another party without the consent of the other party involved. Like if the brand gets sold to another company.

Brand ambassador: You’re the face of a brand or company, representing them at events, on social media, and everywhere in between, as agreed upon. It’s a much bigger commitment than just a one-off endorsement. And typically you’ll be bound to exclusivity, meaning you can’t promote similar brands or products.

Compensation: The agreed-upon payment or consideration for the use of your name, image, or likeness. Remember there are different ways to be compensated.

Consideration: A fancy term for what’s exchanged between the parties in a contract, such as money, goods, or services. So let’s say you had an endorsement deal, the consideration might be the company’s money exchanged for your social media post promoting their product.

Conversion rate: The percentage of people who take a desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up, as a result of the athlete's endorsement or promotion.

Disclosure: When you’re endorsing or promoting a brand, you have to transparently communicate to your audience the nature of a relationship or partnership with a brand.

Endorsement: When a brand pays you to show off their awesome products or tell your followers how much you love them. Unlike being a brand ambassador, an endorsement is a shorter-term commitment, maybe just a handful of social media posts. And typically, you’ll be allowed to engage in partnerships with similar brands at the same time.

Engagement rate: The level of interaction generated by an athlete's social media content, measured by factors like likes, comments, shares, or views.

Equity or ownership stake: Some deals offer you a share or ownership in a company or project. When they win, you win too. It's like being a part-owner.

Force majeure: A clause in a contract that excuses or suspends the obligations of the parties involved due to unforeseen circumstances beyond their control — like a natural disaster or zombie apocalypse.

Good faith: Not trying to take advantage of the other party, not intentionally misleading or deceiving them, and not acting in a way that undermines the purpose or spirit of the contract.

Governing law: The legal system that will govern the interpretation and enforcement of the contract. Usually, it’s by state.

Image approval: Gives the other party the right to review and approve any images, videos, or content featuring your name, image, or likeness before they are released or used publicly.

Indemnification & liability: If things go wrong and someone gets blamed, this is the part of the contract that says who's responsible for covering the costs or damages. It's like a safety net for both parties.

Intellectual property (IP): Addresses the ownership, use, and protection of intellectual property rights, including trademarks, copyrights, or patents related to your name, image, or likeness.

Licensing agreement: When a brand wants to use your name, image, or likeness, they have to sign a contract that spells out all the details. It makes it official.

Likeness: Refers to those aspects of your appearance that make you instantly recognizable—your killer smile, your signature pose, or any features that scream "that's you!" Think about a logo of an athlete printed on sneaker, that’s a “likeness.”

Morals clause: A common contract clause that allows an advertiser to terminate the contract (or even impose a financial penalty) if the athlete is involved in a scandal that might hurt the company brand.

NIL: Stands for Name, Image, and Likeness. Refers to the rights of college athletes to profit from their own name, image, and likeness (aka from being yourself and doing what you love).

Non-compete clause: You're so valuable that brands want you all to themselves! This contractual clause makes sure you don't work with their rivals while you're in a partnership. Sometimes referred to as “exclusivity.”

Non-disclosure agreement (NDA): A legal agreement that protects confidential information shared between parties, preventing its disclosure to third parties. Sometimes called “Confidentiality Agreement.”

Performance bonuses / performance-based nncentives: For college athletes, this is an NIL No-No if relates to your on-field performance! So if anyone offers to bump up your pay if you win a championship, don’t sign!

Performance metrics: The measurable indicators used to evaluate the success and impact of an athlete's involvement in a marketing campaign, such as reach, engagement, or conversions.

Performance obligations: The brand will outline specific things you need to do, like attending events, showing up at appearances, or creating certain content to meet your part of the deal.

Reach: The estimated number of people who view an athlete's content or the brand's message through various social media, online platforms, etc.

Reputation and conduct: Requires you to maintain a certain standard of conduct that reflects positively on the brand, protecting their reputation.

Rights and permissions: Outlines the specific rights granted to the other party, such as using your name, image, likeness, or content in certain mediums or for specific purposes.

Royalties: The money a company pays you based on a percentage of the sales or revenue generated from the use of their name, image, or likeness. So the more they sell, the more you earn.

Social media guidelines: In some cases, a company may give you rules on how to behave and what to post (or not post) on your social media accounts. It’s their way to make sure you represent the brand in a positive way.

Sponsorship: A partnership with a company that believes in you and wants to support you. They might hook you up with cash, gear, or other awesome perks in exchange for repping their brand.

Term: The duration or length of the contract, specifying when it begins and ends.

Termination clause: Sometimes things don't work out as planned, and that's okay. This clause in the contract lays out when and how you or the brand can end the partnership. Flexibility is key!

Territory: The geographical area or market where the contract applies, specifying the locations or regions covered.

Waiver: When you sign a waiver, you're giving up a certain right or claim. It's like saying, "Hey, I'm cool with this, no worries." Just make sure you read it carefully before taking the leap!


As you embark on this new journey of entrepreneurial opportunity, take each term, each clause, each piece of jargon as a stepping-stone towards achieving your full potential. Not just as an athlete, but as a brand that you – and only you – own. The power to build your legacy is in your hands. It is time to embrace this new era, learn the language, and make your mark.