Over 50,000 students will have the opportunity to profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL) under a new Adidas initiative.
The brand announced on Wednesday that it is forming an NIL network that will be accessible to its 109 NCAA Division I partner schools. Through the program, eligible students across 23 D-I sports will have the opportunity to become a paid affiliate brand ambassador with Adidas, a first for a major sports brand.
The initiative is the latest chapter of Adidas’s “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign, which promotes the brand’s goal of creating a more equitable and inclusive future in sports. To start, athletes will have the chance to profit through commission links, but Adidas plans to also offer elevated opportunities at a brand partnership and entrepreneurial level.
“We hope to uplift student-athletes by providing educational opportunities to learn more about the NIL and business landscape, which may include bringing them into brand moments and campaigns, partnerships with existing brand athlete partners and ambassadors,” Adidas NCAA program lead Jim Murphy said in a statement to Sports Illustrated. “But really we want to open the doors to a more equitable future outside of just unlocking monetary rewards. We want to help them grow as student-athletes and set them up for a future beyond college sports.”
The inspiration to allow a wide range of athletes from its member schools to profit off their name, image and likeness branched from Adidas’s goal of impacting as many people as possible while bringing a thoughtful approach to NIL.
“We started to think about how we could do something on a larger scale outside of just individual endorsement deals,” Murphy told SI. “When we really looked across NIL and we grounded it in our mission statement that through sport, we have the power to change lives, I think that’s where we really started to grasp the idea.”
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Adidas plans to roll out the wide-ranging network in four phases over the next year. First up will be the Power 5 programs and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), whose athletes will be able to profit off their NIL come the fall.
It was important to Adidas for HBCU students to be among the first to benefit from this initiative.
“As we look at college athletics and see some of the discrepancies within the landscape, we want to make sure we’re elevating our HBCUs and trying to find every moment we can to really elevate in this space and provide them opportunities that, quite frankly, in the past they might not have been afforded to,” Murphy said.
The unveiling of the NIL network also honors the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which the brand will be commemorating on the NCAA tournament stage. Athletes from Adidas-affiliate schools, including Kansas, Louisville, Saint Peter’s and more, will be wearing shirts starting in the Sweet 16 that read “More Is Possible.” On the back, the shirts have a passage of the Title IX legislation.
This is just the kicking off point of Adidas’s plans to promote change and level the playing field in sports, but the NIL initiative and Title IX campaign intend to remind the public and inspire discussion of one message: “More Is Possible.”
“There is more we can be doing,” Murphy said. “And this NIL program is just one example of how we will continue to find touchpoints in the marketplace to amplify our athletes and making sure that they are grounded in equitable opportunities as it moves forward within our universes.”