NIL unleashed: the essential do's and dont's

GSE Money in the Making

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For college athletes, the NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) era has changed the game, allowing you to benefit financially from your talent and popularity. However, now that you have the opportunity to level up your game behind the scenes, there’s a whole new set of rules and strategies to learn. Here are some essential Do’s and Don’ts to help you thrive in the NIL era.


OPT 1: NIL deal do’s

Do read the rules — Familiarize yourself with the regulations surrounding NIL in your specific context, whether it's NCAA or NAIA guidelines, state laws, or school policies. Know what you are entitled to and the opportunities available.

Do study companies before you reach out —Dedicate some time to studying the company you want to rep. Check out their website. Read their mission statement and values (For example, here are the core values of Morgan Stanley). Then, make sure to scan through recent press written about them and any past marketing campaigns. Not only can all this help you figure out if you’re a good fit for their brand, it can also help you determine if the brand is a good fit for you.

Do be your own brand ambassador — Build and cultivate your personal brand, both on and off the field. Be authentic and intentional about the image you project and the values you represent. Develop a strong online presence, engage with your audience, and showcase your unique story and talents.

Do seek guidance and advice — Think of it as building a dream team. Consult with lawyers, sports agents, financial advisors, or experienced individuals who understand the industry. Their expertise can help you make informed decisions and protect your interests.

Do keep it 100with your fans — Your fans trust you, so don't break that bond. Always disclose when a post or content is sponsored or part of a paid partnership. It's all about being honest and maintaining that strong connection with your audience.

Do review contracts carefully — Take the time to thoroughly review and understand the terms and conditions of any NIL agreement. Seek legal advice if needed to ensure the terms are fair and in your best interest.

Do know (and never forget!) your worth — Before stepping into the negotiation ring, take some time to assess your value. By understanding your unique strengths, achievements, and market demand, you'll exude confidence and negotiate from a position of strength.

Do prioritize your negotiation goals — Are you aiming for a higher compensation, additional benefits, or more favorable terms? By identifying your must-haves and nice-to-haves, you'll focus your efforts on what truly matters.

Do research your “comps” ahead of negotiations — Knowledge is power! Dive into the world of NIL deals, explore industry standards, and gather insights on similar agreements (sometimes called “comps”). It’ll prepare you to make a convincing argument.

Do focus on building relationships — Negotiation isn't just about hammering out a deal; it's about building mutually beneficial relationships. Foster open communication, listen actively, and seek common ground. Building rapport can lead to more successful and collaborative outcomes.


NIL deal don'ts

Don't rush into deals — Avoid the temptation to jump into the first NIL opportunity that comes your way. Take the time to evaluate the offer, assess its alignment with your brand and values, and consider any potential long-term consequences. Make informed decisions that support your overall goals.

Don't sidestep the rules — While NIL offers new opportunities, it's crucial to understand and adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by relevant authorities. Ensure that your activities remain compliant with conference, state, and school guidelines. Non-compliance can have serious consequences.

Don't lose sight of your academic commitments — Remember you’re a student-athlete! Your primary focus should be on your education and athletic responsibilities. Ensure that any NIL activities do not interfere with your academic progress or violate any institutional rules regarding time management and priorities.

Don't compromise your personal brand and reputation — Be cautious about the companies or brands you associate yourself with. Avoid partnerships that may conflict with your values or negatively impact your image. Protect your personal brand and reputation by making choices that align with your identity and goals.

Don’t forget about the financial aid office — Make sure that the extra income you earn from an NIL deal won’t affect your current financial aid and scholarship eligibility. Or if it does, make sure the NIL deal still makes sense financially. Check in with your school’s financial aid office for guidance.

Don't overlook the importance of financial management — Properly manage your finances by considering tax implications, budgeting, and seeking professional advice. Be mindful of the financial obligations and responsibilities that come with NIL deals to ensure long-term financial stability.

Don't underestimate the power of your voice — As a college athlete with a growing platform, be aware that your words and actions carry weight. Use your voice responsibly and avoid engaging in controversial or harmful discussions that could damage your personal brand or reputation.

Don't overlook the long-term — While NIL opportunities can be exciting, think about the bigger picture. Consider how certain endorsements or actions might affect your future career prospects or professional opportunities. Fast money is nice, but be sure to make choices that align with your long-term goals.

Don't disregard your mental and physical well-being — Balancing sports and academics is hard enough. Throw NIL opportunities into the mix, and it can be overwhelming. Take care of yourself by prioritizing your mental and physical health. Seek support when needed, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.


NIL has handed college athletes the keys to unlock a world of possibilities: to monetize their talent and write their own success story. To make the most of this game-changing era, it’s important to approach NIL with intention and purpose. From building strong personal brands and making wise choices in partnerships, to prioritizing academic success and staying true to who you are. By mastering the do’s and avoiding the don'ts, you can leverage NIL to not only propel your athletic career, but also to set a foundation for long-term success and create a legacy that extends far beyond the playing field.