What is NIL?
NIL is an acronym for name, image, and likeness, and refers to college athletes' ability to profit off themselves. On June 30th, 2021, the NCAA approved the NIL policy, allowing student-athletes to be compensated for sponsorships and promotions. Since the ruling just over a year ago, more than 125,000 athletes have signed NIL deals with companies or brands. Car dealers are becoming a prominant industry these athletes are looking to for sponsorships, and some dealers have already taken the leap. There have been multiple high dollar sponsorships to college football stars in recent months.
Current NIL Deals
The first viral NIL deal between a college athlete and dealership came from standout Texas Longhorn running back Bijan Robinson and his deal with Lamborghini Austin in May of 2022. The perks of this deal? You guessed it, Robinson now gets to drive a brand new Lamborghini off the lot and sport it around for at least a year. Shortly after the news of Robinson's deal, CJ Stroud of THE Ohio State Buckeyes announced his NIL deal with Sarchione Auto Gallery in Canton, Ohio. Instead of a Lamborghini, the Ohio State starting quarterback gets a new Mercedes-Benz G-Class. According to On3, the deal is worth over $150,000 and has helped Stroud exceed the $2,000,000 mark in his total NIL earnings. Since these two big name deals have gone viral, more NIL sponsorships between dealers and college athletes are happening throughout the country.
Significance of These Deals
It is well established that the perk for the college athlete in these sponsorships comes in the form of a car, but what do the dealerships get out of it? Well, the answer to that may change the way dealers try to advertise forever. They rely on the social media following of these college athletes to boost their own dealership social media and turn followers in to buyers. In a different article from On3, Chris Benvie, director of marketing at McGovern Automotive Group, says these deals have caused their social media channels "explode." The athletes are also somewhat required to attend certain events that the dealership may host. But other than posting on on social media and tagging the dealership, and doing an event or two, the athletes don't have much obligation to the dealerships. There have also been talks of doing multiple car deals and having athletes swap out cars ever 45 days to make sure the miles don't rack up too high on a single car the dealer may want to resell on their lot.
Overall, these NIL contracts provide an incredible opportunity for dealers to expand their brand on social media and attract the younger generation to their lots via brand building rather than typical advertising means. The future of dealership advertising will revolve around getting the social media channels boosted through these type of celebrity or althlete sponsorships. You could also see a lot more big names on the giant neon signs at the top of the dealership building. Russell Westbrook started his own dealership network in 2016 and now has 10 dealerships to his name. How did he get the idea for owning his own dealership? It came when he starred in a commercial for a local Oklahoma dealership when he was on the Oklahoma City Thunder. A big reason for such a rapid expansion is because of the publicity Russell has in the Southern California community. There is no doubt about the potential for these college athletes to build a solid social media brand for the dealerships they are associated with. There is also a potential for athletes to use their name to get ownership equity and build their own dealership brand. But for now, it seems like the college kids are just happy with their free car.