Maximizing Earnings Through NIL Contracts: A Guide for College Athletes

The recent introduction of the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policy has revolutionized the world of college sports. Now, student athletes have an unprecedented opportunity to earn from their personal brand while still in school. This policy is not without its controversy, with detractors arguing that marketing opportunities distract athletes from their education and sport, but that hasn’t slowed the pace of contracts offered to athletes.

So, here are six things we recommend student athletes consider before engaging in an NIL contract:

  1. Understand Your Worth: The first step in maximizing earnings is understanding one’s worth. Market research is essential. Look at similar athletes in your sport or region and see what kinds of deals they’re landing. Don’t undersell yourself, but also be realistic. Enlisting a trusted advisor or agent with experience in the NIL space can provide valuable insights.
  2. Build Your Brand: Earnings through NIL aren’t solely based on athletic prowess; they’re also about marketability. Engage with fans on social media, showcase your unique story and personality, and cultivate a positive image. The larger and more engaged your audience is, the more attractive you become to potential sponsors.
  3. Diversify Revenue Streams: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Consider a mix of endorsement deals, autograph sessions, camps, social media promotions, and more. By diversifying, you protect yourself from potential downturns in one area of revenue.
  4. Be Mindful of Contractual Obligations: Before signing any contract, understand every detail. This includes compensation terms, duration, exit clauses, and potential conflicts of interest. Having legal representation is crucial. Remember, these contracts can impact future opportunities, so be clear about what you’re committing to.
  5. Prioritize Long-term Partnerships: While one-time deals can be lucrative, building long-term relationships with brands can lead to consistent revenue. Look for corporations whose values align with yours. Authentic partnerships resonate more with the audience and can lead to increased loyalty and trust from fans.
  6. Stay Educated on NCAA and School Rules: NIL rules can be intricate and vary between institutions and conferences. Continuously educate yourself to avoid inadvertent violations that could jeopardize your eligibility and consider working with an attorney experienced in this area to help you review contracts and stay up to date on the rules and requirements.

Amidst the excitement for NIL policies at universities, it’s also important for student athletes to be mindful of the common mistakes that are impacting this developing industry. Especially for parents and families, who may find their lives changing overnight, it’s important to stay on top of these to protect their student’s earnings and mental health.

  • Overspending and Not Budgeting: It’s tempting to splurge with newfound wealth, but it’s crucial to adopt a savings and budgeting mindset from the start. Engage with a financial planner who can guide you in making sound decisions, ensuring that you not only enjoy your earnings now but set yourself up for future success as well.
  • Neglecting Taxes: Earnings from NIL deals are taxable. It’s essential to set aside a portion of your income for taxes and work with a tax professional who can guide you through the intricacies of athlete-specific taxation.
  • Compromising Integrity for Quick Gains: Always uphold your values. Short-term gains from controversial or non-authentic endorsements might harm your reputation and future earnings potential.
  • Overcommitting: While there’s excitement in signing multiple deals, overcommitting can spread you thin and detract from your main goal – excelling in your sport and academics. Manage your time effectively and make sure that your commitments align with your long-term objectives.
  • Not Planning for the Future: NIL deals offer a unique opportunity for college athletes to build wealth early. However, it’s vital to look beyond the present. Consider investing in retirement accounts, stocks, or other assets that can grow over time. A trusted financial advisor can guide you through the investment landscape.

The NIL era is here, bringing exciting opportunities for college athletes and corporations alike. By being strategic, informed, and vigilant, student athletes can maximize their earnings while laying a solid foundation for their financial future.

For more information or to get in touch with one of our advisors, visit us at

Wealthspire Advisors is the common brand and trade name used by Wealthspire Advisors LLC, Private Ocean, LLC, and ACG Advisory Services, LLC, separately registered investment advisers and subsidiary companies of NFP Corp. © 2024 Wealthspire Advisors.
John Kovacs

About John Kovacs

John is a managing director based in our Palm Beach Gardens, FL office.

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