NCAA Athletes as Influencers.

What does the SCOTUS ruling mean for brands and how will platforms react?

Summary: As of July 1, NCAA athletes are able to leverage their platforms just as influencers do -- profiting off their name, image and likeness. Brands have already started swooping in to strike deals with popular players.

“It opens up the floodgates for all these athlete ‘influencers,’ which have a tremendous amount of affiliate potential,” said Lynda Mann, the SVP of commerce for Digital Trends.

Mann said she is eager to see what platforms will facilitate connections between brands and athletes and whether the NCAA will try to get involved in establishing such partnerships.

Michelle Morgan, the director of publisher development at Acceleration Partners, said the new policy reflects a growing trend in affiliate marketing: anyone can be a publisher.

“College athletes now have the opportunity to partner with brands and become publishers and paid influencers in a way that wasn’t possible before,” she said. Acceleration Partners is already seeing “strong interest” from a variety of brands across several industries, including fashion, health and wellness, beauty and food delivery, Morgan said.

The focus now is helping brands simplify and streamline the process of creating relationships and coordinating and executing campaigns with athletes. College athletes have long been banned from cashing in paychecks for playing in the way that professional athletes do. In June, less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA in a case brought by former student-athletes regarding education-related benefits.

The NCAA hopes to have federal or permanent laws surrounding athletes’ rights to sell the use of their name, image and likeness. But the current lift on the ban is a temporary solution -- one that came in response to the fact that some states were moving forward with legislation allowing such compensation, potentially creating unfair disparity among athletes.

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