College athletes earned an estimated $917 million in the first year of Name Image and Likeness (NIL) payments, which began in July 2021, according to new data from Opendorse.
Opendorse, which provides technology to the athlete endorsement industry, projects the NIL market will produce $1.14 billion in NCAA athlete compensation over the next 12 months.
“We're seeing big spends and renewals on spends,” Lawrence told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “We've got national advertisers that are increasing their spend by 4x from Year 1 to Year 2, and that is a sign of the effectiveness of this medium, especially when those same advertisers seem to be limiting their investments in other sports assets.”
Three quarters of NCAA athletes have interacted in some level of NIL activity since last July 2021, per Opendorse, which helps facilitate NIL deals. Through May 31, the average NCAA Division 1 athlete had received $3,711 of money through NIL while some big-name players scored high six-figure deals.
Football and men’s basketball account for nearly 67% of NIL compensation, according to Opendorse, while male athletes lead NIL activities (62.7%) and receive 93% of donor compensation. When eliminating football, the biggest revenue driver in the market, women lead NIL activities by a slim margin.
Where NIL is going
Major companies are increasingly getting into the NIL game: Keurig Dr. Pepper (KDP) launched a commercial with Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, PepsiCo’s (PEP) referenced college athletics as a new place to spend marketing when it dropped out of its sponsorship deal with the NHL, and Nike (NKE) signed UCLA women’s soccer player Reilyn Turner.
It’s simple math for big companies, according to Lawrence: Instead of spending the traditional six-figure minimum to secure a professional athlete, they can spend five figures and create engagement through an active local community.
At the same time, according to Opendorse, recruiting is probably the biggest growth area: An increasing amount of NIL money is coming from donors (currently 35%) through “collectives.” These groups of donors, like those backing the University of Texas program for offensive lineman, are incentivized to bring top-level talent to their college programs.
Opendorse identified more than 105 donor collectives that are either formed or being put together, most of them linked to bigger schools. Lawrence believes that number will grow in Year 2 of NIL and donors will be the leading source of NIL compensation, effectively bringing what was once an illicit market to the forefront of college athletics.
"Year 2 we'll see more collective conversations, but it will become more of the norm than the outlier," Lawrence said. "Most of the conversations about collective and donors supporting student athletes is written from a perspective of like 'Can you believe this?' And it should shift to: 'This is college athletics.' And any deniers — whether that's from an athletic administrator standpoint, a fanbase, or media standpoint — are simply going to be left on the outside looking in."