University educates students on NIL, personal branding

By Luanne Williams

A group of students will get the chance to learn how to build their personal brand during a pilot program next month as Wingate University implements a new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) policy for athletes.

The Bulldog Branding Academy, initially open to 15 students, roughly half of whom are athletes, will offer guidance on branding, marketing, public relations, entrepreneurship and legal compliance. Students chosen for the three-day program, led by the Grio Agency in Charlotte, will move to campus in advance of their peers and spend their mornings in a classroom setting learning the nuts and bolts of building a brand. Their afternoons will be set aside for applying what they’ve learned and having their questions answered.

“In a fast-paced world, building a personal brand is now a requirement for professional success,” said Junior Nyemb, Grio brand strategist and a Wingate alumnus. “Whether students plan to go to graduate school, join the workforce or start a business after graduation, having a strong personal brand will give them a competitive advantage.” He said the pilot program will involve campus leaders who already have a solid foundation for their personal brand.

Partnering with Nyemb on the project will be fellow Wingate alum, Jhamie Chin, director of communications for the Major League Soccer team Chicago Fire FC; and Daniel Revivo, who runs the Miami-based digital marketing agency Eighty West.

At the close of the mini-course, developers will assess its effectiveness and create an online, self-directed version that will be offered more broadly as early as the spring semester. Eventually, the seminar will be open to all Wingate students.

Meanwhile, Ben Sidbury, Wingate’s legal counsel, is educating faculty and staff about how the new NIL rules could affect Wingate’s 650-plus student-athletes.

The University’s five-page NIL policy took effect July 1. It was approved just as the NCAA announced rule changes that open the door for college athletes to engage in various activities, including making endorsement deals, leveraging social media for pay, and making personal appearances or signing autographs. Although the NCAA advised schools not to allow boosters to pay athletes and not to let endorsement deals influence recruiting, it offered little detailed guidance, since many states were already putting in place their own rules in the wake of a June 21 Supreme Court ruling against the organization. That ruling prohibits the NCAA from relying on federal antitrust exemptions to limit education-related benefits such as computers, paid internships or study-abroad opportunities that colleges can offer athletes.

According to Wingate’s policy, athletes will not receive compensation from the University for use of their name, image or likeness, and compensation will not be provided in exchange for athletic performance or attendance at the school. Athletes are not allowed to give paid endorsements of tobacco products, alcohol, firearms, illegal substances, banned athletic substances, gambling or sex-oriented businesses. The rules also prohibit the use of the Wingate name, logo, photos, facilities and uniforms for NIL activity and require athletes to disclose the terms of an NIL contract to the Athletic Compliance Office before signing the contract or receiving compensation.

Wingate’s policy complies with a statewide executive order issued by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on July 2. Cooper is working with state lawmakers to pursue formal legislation to supplement his order. Several NIL bills have been filed in Washington, but Congress has yet to pass federal legislation on the matter.

July 27, 2021