Buffalo, New York (AP) – In the month of March madness, basketball players can capitalize on their shining moments.
The NCAA lifted its ban last summer on athletes who make money from their name, image and appearance. Since then, all kinds of business opportunities have sprung up from modest online endorsement deals to national sponsorship campaigns to booster funded groups that can pay athletes thousands of dollars.
The NCAA Championship is an opportunity for new stars to emerge, such as Teddy Allen from New Mexico.
Allen scored 37 in a upset at UConn on Thursday, flexing, dancing and waving goodbye to Husky fans.
By Friday night, there was Hooded shirts and blouses Available for purchase online with a drawing of Allen, the words “BYE BYE” and the results and date of the Aggies’ first NCAA Championship win since 1993.
“Everyone realizes how important it is to really take advantage of the moment. It happens. Because it’s the talk of the town. Because it’s trending on Twitter. It’s the time to sell their gear and memorabilia,” said Hunter Pomerantz, co-founder of The Players Trunk, an online merchandise store for college athletes selling their gear and memorabilia. The right one to make a really strong engagement.
Pomerantz, a student and former coach of the Syracuse basketball team, said The Players Trunk is reaching out to the athletes and offering them a contract to take a cut in apparel sales. He declined to reveal what percentage the players go to.
T-shirts sell for $29.99 and sweaters for between $49.99 and $59.99. Pomerantz said the contract only covers equipment sales and all they ask the athletes to do is promote merchandise on their social media accounts.
Even before the tournament started, The Players Trunk started making money at March Madness.
The company produced jerseys and headdresses for Wisconsin goalkeeper Chuckie Hepburn, whose bank fired in the last seconds against Purdue to wrap up the Badgers Big Ten’s regular season title, and David Jean Baptiste of Chattanooga, who sent the Mocs to the NCAA Long-Bell in the Southern Conference Championship game.
Selling merchandise is just the tip of the iceberg of potential earnings for Mars stars.
There is a potentially lucrative market for March Madness-related NFTs and digital collectibles, said Jim Cavale, CEO of INFLCR, a company that works with thousands of college teams and athletes across a range of NIL programs.
But this requires planning, coordination and the current state of the NIL market is not set up to allow athletes to benefit efficiently.
The NCAA does not have uniform and detailed rules governing zero compensation. The association has instructed its member schools to follow state laws where applicable or to create their own rules in the states without legislation.
Many athletes are not allowed to use their schools’ signs and emblems in their none activities. In some cases they can’t work on nil deals while they’re representing the school.
The Players Trunk with Allen’s photo does not refer to New Mexico State, but uses the colors of the Aggies basketball uniform.
Also, licensing agreements between the NCAA, media rights holders CBS, and Turner place limits on what athletes can use to create content.
Even if the content manages to remove legal hurdles, it takes quick action and foresight to cash in on the newfound fame.
“You still have to be informed enough and take initiative or help be aware and take enough initiative to make the most of this new value,” Caval said.
Madness with NIL this March 1 will likely lay out a blueprint for schools and athletes to better position themselves for sudden stardom in the coming years.
“This will be the last year that kids aren’t quite ready for it,” said Blake Lawrence, CEO of Opendorse, another company that works with schools and athletes to run NIL activities.
Lawrence said that the chaotic nature of the current rules and regulations regarding non-existence of nuclear weapons hinders the market.
He said a national brand wants to advertise the men’s and women’s tournaments using athletes whose teams have advanced from round one to round two.
So a player like Allen could have appeared in Saturday’s ad after his big game on Thursday. But there have been questions about whether athletes will be allowed to participate in nil activities during road trips, to represent their schools.
“Once they started navigating these things they decided it was too difficult and so they decided not to spend with student athletes at all,” he said.
For now, T-shirts and hoodies should do.
More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness, https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball, and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25