In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Ross Dellenger writes about the new rule of name, image, and likeness that has rocked varsity athletics:
âThe first thing to understand about the NIL is that no one fully understands the NIL. “
In fact, there is a group of 28 students from Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics who by the end of this semester will fully understand NIL. This fall, these students will take a Department of Sports Management âImage and Likeness of Nameâ course, which would be the first undergraduate course of its kind in the country.
The course is taught by David Meluni, an assistant professor of sports management who has over 20 years of experience in college athletics, first as a baseball player at Ithaca College, then working in the box office, the marketing, sponsorship and digital roles in Ithaca, Cornell, Florida State and Syracuse.
Last year, a mosaic of states began passing laws requiring college athletes to profit from their images. After asking Congress to adopt a set of uniform rules (it doesn’t), the NCAA raised its hand and said that starting July 1, 2021, all athletes could benefit financially from their name. , image and likeness.
The Falk course includes the NIL model. Students collaborate with industry professionals while learning how to build a brand and ultimately monetize opportunities. Students are involved in proposal writing, infographic design, and developing marketing and social media plans.
âOur department is proud to create courses that connect our students to contemporary issues in the sports industry,â said Michael Veley, Rhonda S. Falk Full Professor and Director and Chairman of the Sports Management Department. âThe NIL legislation will change the business model of Division I college athletics in the future. When you combine the teaching skills of Professor Meluni with the expertise and collaborative partnership of (the sponsorship sales company) SponsorUnited, this course will be a game-changer. “
In this Q&A, we ask Meluni how the class came together, the impact of NIL, and what her students are learning.
Q: The NCAA announced their decision on July 1, and less than two months later you are teaching a “Name, Image, and Likeness” course. Tell us how it came together so quickly.
A: I am always on the lookout for trends in the sports industry and, as a former student-athlete, have been keeping an eye on NIL for the past few years. Once the NCAA filed a ruling in January 2021, we knew something had to happen last July, so I started planning around that time.
Q: As Michael Veley says, NIL – and this course – is a game-changer. Can you explain why this is such a revolutionary rule change?
A: Think about media rights holders, licensing, and merchandising, just to get started. If a brand can partner with an athlete, what impact does that have on a sports department’s business partner? Brands want engagement, and the athlete can lead it.
Q: You have a varied and extensive experience in collegiate athletics. How did this help you develop the course program?
A: After spending 10 years selling corporate sponsorships in college athletics in Syracuse, followed by six years in digital media at SIDEARM Sports, I have taken on the many challenges that brands face. An athlete can provide an avenue that brands have traditionally struggled with. Brands want engagement, and no one is better placed than athletes who have essentially become influencers.
Q: What are your students learning and what are some of the skills they gain from this course?
A: Students learn how to prospect for a potential partner using industry leading sales software provided by SponsorUnited. They rate college athlete’s social media Instagram accounts to predict prices and trends, and use Canva to create graphics for themselves as if they were a student-athlete or consultant for a student-athlete.
Q: Your class works closely with SponsorUnited, a sponsorship sales company. Explain how this partnership started and what SponsorUnited offers your students.
A: We are currently the only university in the country to have this kind of relationship. We have worked with SponsorUnited in various capacities for the past two years and their software is the industry’s leading prospecting tool for organizations to control brands. The software is updated daily and allows you to keep up with sponsorship prospects and industry trends. Working with SponsorUnited is great and we are proud to use their software as a supplement to the manual.
Q: Your textbook is âImpact Beyond the Game: How Athletes Can Build Influence, Monetize Their Brand, and Create a Legacyâ by Malcolm Lemmon. The title is certainly appropriate, but what is in the book that makes it so useful for this course?
A: All! When I decided to create the course, I wanted to use this book because it’s incredibly easy to read, it covers everything from how to deal with media to the importance of social media, and there’s nothing in what is not covered under NIL. Malcolm hit a home run with this book even before NIL was there.
Q: So far, what has been the reaction of the students in your class and – we have to ask ourselves – are there any student-athletes taking the course this fall?
A: Class discussions are exceptional. Students in our department are connected to hot topics in the sports industry and it’s definitely the hottest one right now. This semester we have several student-athletes in the classroom, as well as a handful of team leaders who specialize in sports management, sports analysis and broadcasting. It’s the perfect mix of students, and the next semester will likely be the same.
Meluni says there are discussions to expand opportunities for students and industry professionals who want to learn more about NIL through an Orange Academy online NIL course. More details will follow. Visit here to learn more about the Department of Sports Management and its academic programs, and follow Meluni on Twitter and LinkedIn.