Build Your Business:

Why Name Image Likeness is a Great Opportunity for Decorators

By Mike Clark, Contributing Writer

March 3, 2022

If you’ve been following the news on college sports the past few months, you might’ve noticed the NCAA changed restrictions on how student-athletes can make money. Previously, students couldn’t profit from their names as individuals with endorsements, products, or advertising. But now, they can. And that presents a pretty incredible opportunity for apparel decorators and printers.

But what’s this got to do with hats, tote bags, hoodies, and koozies you print? Quite a lot! Let’s take a closer look at how this change is beneficial for your business.

Quick history: Name Image Likeness
The exciting change took place on July 1st. It relates to how NCAA athletes can accept money from businesses to feature them on products or advertisements. The decision came after court battles and increasing political pressure over how colleges could make money off their athletes. Still, it limited how those same student-athletes could make their own money.

These rights are also known as name, image, likeness (NIL) rights. With this change, students from all three NCAA divisions can monetize their NIL. This change means they can take advantage of advertising deals, sponsorships, and, most importantly, licensed products with their name or image on them.

Diving Right In
Some students are already jumping at the opportunity. For example, seven college football stars with Florida, Michigan, and Ohio State recently scored an NIL deal with Outback Steakhouse. Similarly, Hanna and Haley Cavinder, basketball players with Fresno State, signed an endorsement deal with wireless communications company Boost Mobile in New York.

Multiple athletes launched custom-brand apparel lines, including Nebraska volleyball player Lexi Sun. Kentucky basketball player Dontaie Allen also released his apparel lineup through The Players Trunk. Allen has T-shirts, hoodies, and youth-sized apparel, all branded with his image on them.

In most cases, these athletes aren’t waiting for the deals to come to them. They’re getting out and exploring opportunities to score big with branded merch. Two Illinois athletes, Andre Curbelo and Brandin Podziemski, both started selling branded merch. Podziemski set up an exclusive branded merch deal with Campus Ink, while Curbelo recently hosted a packed meet-and-greet where fans scored exclusive printed jerseys with his likeness printed on them.

What does the NIL change mean for apparel decorators?
You probably already print merch for college sports teams and their retail stores. But until now, most of what you’re allowed to print is generally team wear purchased by the school or fanwear purchased by the store. With the changes to NIL, you’ve got a whole other sector of the team apparel world to tap into– the student-athlete!

NIL rights are also known as an individual’s “right to publicity.” For you, that means socks, hats, shirts, banners, anything your shop prints can carry a customized branding, logo, and student-athlete name.

Get your foot in the door
If you print for schools and colleges, you’ve already got an advantage. Schools can’t be directly involved in any sort of NIL merchandise program for students. But think about how many parents out there with budding athletes might want to take advantage of this opportunity. Here are a few ways you can promote NIL services so people know you’re open for business:

● Sending an email to your client list. Even if you don’t know someone directly involved with college athletes, there’s a good chance your customers know collegiate athletes.
● Promote it on social media. Share the news that you’re excited about the NCAA’s change with your followers, and let them know you’re there to help. Some of your customers may not even know about this news.
● Update your website. Ensure you have a landing page or at least a banner announcing your NIL services as a new addition. The easier it is to spot, the better chance you’ll have at catching their attention!

Proceed with caution
There’s plenty of promise with the changes in NIL licensing for your shop, even though it’s in the early stages. But, make sure you check the latest rules on NIL since the fine print varies state by state. There are a couple of guidelines that the New York Post helped break down too. Make sure you do your homework.

Mike Clark serves as a copywriter for InkSoft and also freelances as well. He’s written for newspapers, online publications, and print magazines and has covered decorated apparel industry topics for the last six years.