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Owls explore sponsorships with new NIL policy

Illustrated by Ndidi Nwosu

By Reed Myers     11/9/21 11:49pm

A few months ago, the NCAA announced a long-awaited rule change that allows collegiate athletes in all sports to benefit from their name, image and likeness (NIL), including through sponsorship deals. Since then, many Rice student-athletes have taken advantage of the new policy by garnering partnerships and sponsorships with local and national companies. 

According to sophomore basketball shooting guard Quincy Olivari, the newly adopted policy is a huge upgrade over the previous policy, which didn’t allow student-athletes to profit from their name.

Editor’s note: the author and Olivari are teammates on the Rice men’s basketball team.

“I’m a huge fan of the new NIL policy,” Olivari said. “It allows athletes to capitalize on opportunities they’d have to otherwise wait for when not in college. It also gives us the opportunity to learn financial literacy, which is an important skill to have. The policy is still new so there are still kinks to work out, but at least the NCAA is moving forward with the student-athletes getting paid.”

Since the NIL policy was adopted this past summer, it has been a learning process for student-athletes to communicate with companies about potential partnerships and deals. To help her navigate the NIL landscape, senior volleyball outside hitter Nicole Lennon said that she began using a professional service for NIL activities to help her find her current deals. 

“I hired Main Street Consulting to help me with my NIL deals, which made the process so much easier,” Lennon said. “My agent, Morgan Bates [Wiess College senior], told me to pick some businesses I wanted to work with and she would contact them and work out the contracts.”

For student-athletes, partnering with the right organizations and companies that fit what the student-athlete is looking for while successfully promoting oneself, one’s team, and one’s school is important. According to sophomore runner Grace Forbes, she sought companies that she felt comfortable attaching her name to.. 

“I selected companies that aligned with my values and ones that I actually used on a regular basis,” Forbes said. “Trust and honesty is an important factor of mine, so I will not advertise products that I personally do not use.”

Lennon was also careful in selecting the companies that she represented. According to Lennon, she was focused on partnering with local companies that valued her and everything that she brought to the table. 

“The two local businesses I am partnered with are Tasc Houston in Rice Village and Kale Me Crazy in The Heights,” Lennon said. “When us athletes were granted our NIL rights, I didn’t want to become just another ambassador at a company I barely knew. I knew from day one that if I was going to promote a product or brand, it would be a local business that could really benefit from my helping them, and that it would be a business that valued me as Nicole Lennon, for my individual strengths and my unique social media presence.”

According to Olivari, his deals have already given him the chance to build some valuable partnerships in the relationships. 

“The deals I’ve made and the ones I make in the future don’t define me,” Olivari said. “My goals are to build relationships with companies and people. I’ve met so many amazing people already and have been provided opportunities that I couldn’t have imagined.”

While the NIL policy is still in its infancy, some student-athletes like Lennon have already seen immediate returns in their partnerships, which she said have worked out for her in more ways than she had expected.

“I have much more content that I am excited about posting on Instagram that I hope my followers appreciate,” Lennon said. “Tasc Houston and Kale Me Crazy have also posted me on their Instagram pages and stories which has helped me and Rice Volleyball get some more fans and followers. Allowing athletes our NIL rights truly benefits everyone involved, the business, the athlete, and Rice athletics.”

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