Fair Pay to Play Act: What athletes need to know to protect their personal brand

Let the games begin! The signing of California Senate Bill 206, or the Fair Pay to Play Act, has thrust forward the discussion regarding collegiate athletes profiting off of their likeness.

Once again, so we’re all clear, this bill paves the way for athletes to hire agents to seek out business deals. It would also make it illegal for universities to revoke an athlete’s scholarship or eligibility for taking money.

New York, Kentucky, Nevada, Florida, and other states are considering similar legislation.

This issue currently remains quite amorphous, and the only thing that’s certain is that it will continue to change shape again and again. I want to be clear that I’m not here to address what impact this legislation will have on collegiate sports. I also have zero interest in trying to guess what the NCAA will do to try to block or circumvent these efforts.

My goal is to always be a source of education and perspective. Below are a few critical items that collegiate athletes should keep in mind to grow and protect their emerging personal brands when engaging with this newly enacted legislation.

Choose your agent wisely. A prosperous business deal that’s beneficial to your brand has two parts: the contract and the creative. Good agents can negotiate a great deal with their eyes closed, but what do they know about content strategy and creation? When selecting an agent, be sure to ask if they have a marketing and public relations expert on staff or partner with a marketing firm or publicist so that your best interests are fully managed.

No free lunch. Everyone gets paid one way or another. Your agent, publicist, social media manager, etc. all need to get paid for their services. Before signing anything, make sure you fully understand what obligations you have to those who are assisting you. Trust me when I tell you that this advice is the only free thing you’re likely to receive.

Good for the wallet, bad for the brand. Just because a business opportunity temporarily fills your wallet doesn’t mean it’s the best long-term decision for your brand. Endorsing a faulty product, aligning yourself with a shady businessperson, or distributing poorly created content could haunt you for years to come. Don’t get blinded by dollar signs. Work with your support team to think critically about any company or individual you’re aligning yourself with.

You still have to perform. Regardless if business opportunities come to you or someone is securing them on your behalf, companies will be more inclined to partner with an athlete who’s performing well on and off the field of court. It’s important not to let these additional business opportunities take away from why you’re at your college or university: to be a student-athlete.

Your brand, or reputation, will remain with you whether you’re fortunate enough to go on and play professionally or not. As collegiate athletes brand rights expand, it’s imperative that you make each decision, form each relationship, and build each piece of content with your future self in mind.

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