NCAA Schools Begin Work with Athlete Brand Consultant Ahead of NIL Rule Changes

The University of Wisconsin’s women’s volleyball team announced Thursday that it would be partnering with “brand consultant” Jeremy Darlow to learn how to “how to develop and grow their personal brands,” the latest sign of the coming change in college sports regarding name, image and likeness rules.

Wisconsin ranked 2nd in women’s volleyball attendance nationally in the 2019 season, drawing 6,594 fans per match. That trailed only Big Ten rivals Nebraska, which drew 8,205 spectators per match. The Big Ten Network says that women’s volleyball is its 3rd highest-rated sport behind football and men’s basketball.

In April, the NCAA announced that it would move to “modernize” name-image-likeness rules for student-athletes by 2020-21, agreeing to allow athletes to receive compensation for things like social media, personal businesses and personal appearances, provided they fall under a set of guiding principles established by the board. The NCAA release made clear that schools are still not allowed to pay athletes, but athletes can now earn money from third parties in certain cases.

Student-athletes will take Darlow’s course “The DARLOW Rules: How to Build an Athlete Brand,” which the school said will provide them with the fundamentals of brand development and communication, and educate them on how to “grow their personal brand to lay a foundation for post-graduate success in professional careers and beyond.”

Darlow, the author of book “The Athletes Are Brands Too,” has worked with professional athletes including Aaron Rodgers, Kris Bryant, and Lionel Messi, as well as celebrities including Kanye West and Snoop Dogg.

Earlier this month, West Virginia University also announced a deal for its football team with Darlow, as did the University of Pittsburgh. The University of Colorado, Mercer College, and the University of Evansville additionally announced they have new partnerships with Darlow for all student-athletes, with the first creating an athletics department program called “Buffs with a Brand.”

West Virginia released a statement saying that the deal would “give each player the ability to recognize and grow his influence, target and identify his potential audience and develop strong communication platforms,” and head football coach Neal Brown said that the team is trying to “get out in front of this” (presumably pointing to the impending changes).

While we still don’t know exactly what the NCAA’s rules will look like, proponents of the movement to let student-athletes profit from their performances don’t exactly have high hopes for the oft-criticized governing body. Last week, the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences (ACC, SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12) even sent a letter to Congress asking that it enact federal, national legislation regarding NIL rules ahead of the NCAA and individual states’ decisions.

Following the NCAA’s April announcement, SwimSwam editor-in-chief Braden Keith brainstormed some potential new revenue streams for college-aged swimmers, including fitness-themed Youtube Channels and social media accounts that previously couldn’t net any income.

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About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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