College Tips - How 'Name, Image, Likeness' is a Game Changer For Student Athletes ft. Tessa Berger - Crimson Education Head of Athletics
Crimson Education's Head of Athletics and former D1 athlete, Tessa, discusses the wide ranging impact of the recent 'Name, Image, Likeness' policy that allows student athletes to profit from their brand during college.
Resources and links
[00:03:29] What is Name, Image, Likeness
[00:07:32] What you can do with Name, Image, Likness
[00:13:50] High school athletes and branding
[00:16:01] Possible changes to athlete pathways
[00:18:54] The impact for female athletes
[00:22:00] How Crimson Education supports student athletes
Quotes from this Episode:
"And I think a lot of brands have really recognized that as this isn't just about top talent, with massive followings signing with big companies. This is about, you know, your D3 athlete in Texas who's signed a contract with a local barber shop where they're getting exposure, and they get faded up twice a week, you know, it's for everybody, and everybody's going to be able to capitalize on it in their own way." [00:11:42]
athletes, college, sport, students, brand, big, pathway, crimson, opportunities, experiences, monetize, pro, likeness, bit, capitalize, year, build, space, people, position
Alex Cork, Tessa Berger
Alex Cork 00:09
Hi, Tessa. Welcome to another episode of the college tips podcast. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself because we have known each other for years, but our lovely listeners haven't had the opportunity to hear dulcet tones. So give us a bit of background.
Tessa Berger 00:33
Thanks for having me, Alex bit about me. Well, I'm a former collegiate athlete myself hail from Auckland, New Zealand. So I was really fortunate as an international athletes head through the pathway went on to play in my chosen sport of football, not just on the collegiate stage, but beyond playing at FIFA World Cups. And obviously, then going pro, ended up coming full circle, knowing Jamie coming on board at Crimson to start up athletic recruitment services at crimson. So I think on the athletic front, that's the gist of it, you know, Corky that there's a few other things outside of that, but that hopefully covers off a lot of the stuff on the athletic front.
Alex Cork 01:18
Yeah, absolutely. Well, for our listeners, My last name is cool Ken's coffee, which is very common in New Zealand and Australian tea. But I did have a question, which is about like, I'm an Aussie. You're a kiwi. We're here talking about us college sports. How does someone living in Auckland, New Zealand stay up to date with everything going on in the US college sports? And because obviously, like it's a drastically changing and ever kind of growing scene, so how do you stay on top of all the different things that are going on over there?
Tessa Berger 01:48
Yeah, it's no easy feat. I think the age of the internet and tech certainly has helped things in recent years. Don't get me wrong, but it's just one of those areas where as you say, rightly so it's ever evolving and changing. And depending on what your interests are with the college face, whether it be you know, you are a prospective recruit, and you're trying to get a good feel for what the domestic game in the US looks like. So you can kind of evolve and become as competitive as a candidate as possible. Or Further to that you're just an avid fan, across ANZ and you like the likes of March Madness, which is an insane time of the year when collegiate basketball playoffs happen. Or of course you're following other sports across the NCAA, easiest way to do it is either kind of getting yourself affiliated with a team is a nice, natural place to start. But Further to that, I mean, the NCAA is pretty prevalent across social media. It's not that hard to stay on the pulse.
Alex Cork 02:50
Yeah, okay, awesome. Well, the whole kind of college sports scene is, you know, really coming back as it were after a pretty grim 2020. So which is fantastic. Because it's such a big part of American life. I think people were more excited to have college football back then they were to have pro football back. But anyway, like, it's great, because sport is back. It is actually an integral part of the college experience in American life in general. But today, we're talking primarily about a new part or new aspect of college sport, which is name image likeness. What is that?
Tessa Berger 03:29
It's basically your brand. It's something that whether we are aware of it or not. I mean, social media in the age of social media has certainly changed the landscape on what it means and how easy it is to build a brand. So for someone like myself, when I was moving through the collegiate pathway, one thing I didn't have was the luxury of being able to monetize the following and the interest that I'd really been fortunate with the exposure that I had to be able to build throughout my time in high school. So it's really allowing for future collegiate athletes and current collegiate athletes to, as I say, kind of monetize what they do in the age of social media, sign endorsement deals, and just generally kind of start to profit off of their their name, image and likeness.
Alex Cork 04:22
Okay, so this is a bit of a historical context as well, because they know this debate has been going on for years in the US, you know, with some like superstar athletes going through college or even like one year of college before getting drafted. Someone like Zion Williamson is probably a good example, I think was probably the last megastar, not to benefit from his name, image and likeness when he was at college. And now those rules have changed. So can you kind of there's a bit of a sense of like how this might impact or change people's experience of college sports if they are an athlete and they are looking to build a brand rounds, you know, their whole kind of like they may be coming into college portal already with a brand, but how it might change their experience as a college athlete.
Tessa Berger 05:09
I think that whole idea of bringing in this lores, for as much as it is about allowing these young people, these talented athletes to go on and to begin building their brands early, and certainly monetize and profit off of that brand building, it's one thing that we kind of can't lose sight of is that it's actually going to allow for these athletes to be in an environment where they're not having to worry so much about outside factors. I know we think of the names of you know, the likes of Zion, as you mentioned, he didn't come from an affluent background. You know, we have many athletes that go on to play and compete at top tier D one schools. But you have to remember that even with full scholarship funding, yes, your tuition is covered. Housing and accommodation, food, no one's paying to put gas in your petrol tank. You know, if you can't work, which you can, especially as an international athlete, you're not allowed to be employed when you're at college, these families coming from whatever background you come from, you need support from a family, you need support from other people that are willing to help you through those four years, because you can't on paper who haven't been able to up until this point, fund those additional costs yourselves. So I think there's definitely two sides to what one yes, the likes of Zion, and these top tier athletes can go on to make the you know, what will be most differently millions of dollars, and rightfully so that deserved money based off of the brands that they've built. But it is also creating this space for young athletes who may not go on to become professional athletes, or, in particular, female athletes as well, that aren't going to go on and make millions and millions of dollars as pro players, it's going to allow for them to fund their experiences in college. So whether they have that desire to go pro or not, they're not having to worry about a lot of those things that we may take for granted. If you do have a part time job and college. You know, you don't have to worry about a lot of those outside factors, you really can then focus on what you're doing on the court, in the pool, etc, as well as obviously what you're doing in the classroom.
Alex Cork 07:21
Awesome. Now, what are some of the ways that students can actually profit off name image likeness, like is there a set list of things that they can and can't do?
Tessa Berger 07:32
There isn't, there isn't the probably the first most natural step for anybody that's, you know, considering moving into the pathway, or those athletes that are already in college is get an agent, get some representation, the most important thing that can do is get the right sort of people around you with the knowledge and understanding of the nuances of NIL. So you're not making any, you know, wrong decisions or tying yourself into contracts. Too soon, where, you know, you could be going out on the market and getting better opportunities, that's probably the most natural place to start. But beyond then, I mean, we're talking about again, I'll come back to the social media age, branded content, you know, endorsement deals. So whether you're partnering with car companies, whether you're partnering with the likes of Nike or Adidas, these big global sporting brands, the opportunities are somewhat limitless, I know that there are some pretty unique examples of I think Gone are the days of say like selling or your signature, a lot of experiences now that fans are really craving those one on one interaction. So you've seen a lot of different types of platforms, and I won't name names, where you can sign up and you know, have exclusive access and pay for different experiences with superstars and talent. I mean, you see that with celebrities, etc. But, you know, the opportunity for collegiate athletes now whether it's like video gaming platforms that they can monetize, and, you know, get online and play NBA touquet or FIFA with, you know, fellow fans and monetize those experiences. That's another nice way of going about it. But yeah, there there are so many different opportunities. It almost seems kind of endless at this point, but make sure that you're being smart and the way in which you're going about doing it.
Alex Cork 09:23
Okay, fair enough. Am I right in saying NIL is only really relevant to a very, very, very small percentage of top dejuan athletes like your Zion Williamson's or could potentially be like a D2 or D3 athlete or like a mid tier D1 athlete who has like a big social media following but may not necessarily be you know, the next superstar of a pro lead for instance?
Tessa Berger 09:49
Completely. And that is, I think what everybody is really been calling for us and what happens to that chunk of people who are You know, in a position where they're probably not going to go on and be that 2% of collegiate athletes that end up going pro and the chosen split, how do they really, you know, caching, so to speak, on their time within the NCAA, and the exposure that, you know, even if you are playing day to soccer or you know, d3 tennis, this is televised coverage, you know, how do you really capitalize on that exposure? So I think it's going to be huge for those athletes. And you say it so perfectly, you know, it's not just these top tier D one athletes that have big followings. And you know, whether you've got 100 ,200, some of these collegiate athletes, you know, 500k to a million followers doesn't really matter so much. Of course it does when it comes to the zeros. But you know, it doesn't really matter so much about the size of that following, I think there's been a big cultural shift and what we kind of deemed the micro influencer, where, you know, the big names of the world, you know, assigning those multimillion dollar endorsement deals and getting paid, you know, 500k, some of the big accounts and the big stars, you know, a million dollars to, you know, post one story on Instagram, versus those that may have 2000 to 5000 followers on Instagram or, like a healthy amount of followers on tik tok, they might get paid smaller amounts, maybe $100, $200 for a post, but sometimes the engagement and more often than not with, I guess the social media trends, the engagement with those micro audiences and micro followers actually has a far more significant impact, because you kind of have that more localized touchpoints, so to speak. So there's a market and a niche for everybody. And I think a lot of brands have really recognized that as this isn't just about top talent, with massive followings signing with big companies. This is about, you know, your D3 athlete in Texas who's signed a contract with a local barber shop where they're getting exposure, and they get faded up twice a week, you know, it's for everybody, and everybody's going to be able to capitalize on it in their own way.
Alex Cork 12:10
So is this only relevant to scholarship athletes? Or is it you know, it doesn't apply to any college student?
Tessa Berger 12:19
Yeah, everybody. I think there's been a few misconceptions historically, that it's just those athletes that may be on scholarship, where a lot of this stuff probably doesn't apply. Not true at all. It's an eligibility amateurism thing as it relates to the NCAA. So anybody who's in that space can most definitely be taking full advantage of the changes to name image and likeness.
Alex Cork 12:45
Awesome. One of the other questions I had was in terms of like, if you were to speak to young Tessa, again, like say, for instance, 15-16 year old Tessa, and she's out there, you know, on the soccer pitch really working hard, no game, these kinds of things. If you were advising a student today, who was a very, very solid athlete, but was so focused on their sport, and not necessarily on their brand, would you say to them to potentially to make money out of their ability and whatnot, hey, go learn a tick tock dance like that's training for you today is to go and you know, nail a tick tock dance, get that online, build your brand, because that is probably in many cases, as you say, like only 2% of people go pro to that other 98% of college athletes, they are probably more likely to make money through ni L, then through a pro contract. So would you be advising students who are looking to be college bound to work on their brand? Probably not as much as their sport, obviously, but at least to pay attention to it?
Tessa Berger 13:50
Yeah, it's important to be hyper aware. And yes, I would have gone back to young chaser and given her a few pointers, but I have to say, I've got to give myself credit, I was pretty forward thinking in my approach, when, you know, Facebook started to fade away from my generation and Instagram, came on the scene and became kind of the number one go to that end of the Twitter, I managed to kind of grow my brand off the back of appearances at FIFA World Cup. So we have a pretty global audience, and start to build that out slowly, not thinking in the short term, that I'd be able to monetize it. But, you know, trying to create a global brand for myself, and also to keep it really authentic. Of course, it's a big part of, you know, growing a following that's going to stick with you as you kind of evolve through your journey. But without a doubt. Think of it as its investment really, isn't it like anything that you do not just as an athlete, it's one part of the puzzle. And obviously, that's going to give you that primary platform to go on and grow your brand. But you have to be approaching it with a real business mindset of how can you really leverage that athletic ability to To create other opportunities for yourself. So getting some advice, you know, I'll always default back to, we know what we know. But we should always be kind of endeavoring to learn from those that are specialists in the field. So, get some advice. But definitely start thinking as early as you can about how you are going to start yet building out that following. So it's going to be of use to you as you kind of hit the big leagues and college sports.
Alex Cork 15:29
Now, how is this likely to affect a student's kind of usual pathway of completing high school going into college, and I know that some college athletes get poached after one year or so. But is it likely to mean that more kids leave high school earlier? Is it more likely that kids will stay in college longer, because they can still earn good money whilst they're at college? Like, how is this likely to play out in what I guess timeframe, students progress to whatever next stage of their life they're looking at?
Tessa Berger 16:01
Yeah, it's a it's an interesting one, because you talk about one and done, as they call it colloquially, in the US, obviously, very big in the basketball pathway where, you know, talent will go out of high school, play one year in college basketball, and then look to get drafted directly into the NBA, potentially go to Europe, I think we're going to see a bit of a trend that skewing towards athletes deciding to leave high school early, not that they won't graduate. Because of course, that's a stipulation for the NCAA eligibility that you have to officially graduate high school. But if we dealing with top talent that can put themselves academically in a position to graduate early, I don't see any reason as to why there's not going to be a bit of a trend. And it's skewing towards that, because it allows for them earlier to put themselves in that position to to hit what is a bigger platform. And certainly to push themselves athletically. I also think there's a case for Yep, potentially talent wanting to stick around for a little bit longer playing collegiate sport. Of course, again, you've got eligibility to deal with, and you've only got four years officially, that you can compete in college. But if anybody knows anything about collegiate sport, you know that you can redshirt a year based off of, you know, whether you're injured or otherwise. So you can potentially get five years, instead of that four, so an additional year to capitalize. But I think at the end of the day, right, those opportunities are going to present themselves on either side of the equation. For the most part, I don't think it's you know, there's going to be, you know, hordes of kids looking to graduate early nor do I think is going to be, you know, hundreds of 1000s of kids that are going to try and stick around for much longer. But I'd say put it this way, it's not like nothing's going to change. It'll be very, very interesting to monitor it over the coming few seasons and see how those trends start to shift.
Alex Cork 18:05
Yeah, absolutely. Now, as a female athlete, you so going through the collegiate system and pro sport as well, I would imagine that the ability to cash in during college because obviously there's not as much money out there for pro women in sport, I would say that this could potentially benefit women quite significantly in terms of like, their decision making process to go to the college system. And these kinds of things. This could be like a serious factor. I mean, there's the boys are always probably going to have that, you know, dream of going to the NBA or whatever, you know, in their minds, and making like millions, but I would say that for particularly female athletes, this could play a big part in the decision making process as to whether or not they do try and pursue us college sports is that something that you predict could be a thing within I am?
Tessa Berger 18:54
hugely so I think out of everything. That's the one that I've been, I guess, hyper aware of and knowing just how great of an impact this is going to have on female sport as a whole. Seeing these, these young woman, as you say, you know, really capitalizing on the exposure that they do have across that four year period, because we know pay parity in professional sport just does not exist for the most part across the board. You know, even in many situations where the revenue generated and the stats and the viewership not naming names, US Soccer. But there's certainly there's a lot that we're still continuing to fight for and women's sport and there's a very, very, very long way to go. In the professional sense. We know that, you know, obviously there's a lot more parody across collegiate sports. So that in itself was a great thing and certainly why I love to see female athletes going through the college pathway before they then look to go pro But there's no way around it, it's going to be monumental for females in the space to be able to capitalize, you know whether ultimately they do go on and hit into pro sports. I've, you know, myself had a taste of that firsthand and know, obviously, many other athletes not just, you know, female soccer players, but across a wide array of different sports where, you know, it was common for the other woman when I was going through this pathway. And I think I only, gosh, looking back now, in hindsight, I'm like, how old are we really, in what 2014 2015, you know, coming out of that college space, girls are working two jobs playing professional soccer net, we only just seeing that shift now. But that's very common, as you see these female professional athletes that have other full time jobs in order to to supplement you know, what they're doing in this sport in terms of pursuing a pro space. So it gives them that opportunity to take advantage, build brands, and, you know, cash in and you know, pocket a little bit of money in that time that can potentially even propel them to focus solely on being a professional athlete, once they get to that point in their career then. Fantastic. But yeah, there's no, there's no doubt about it, it's going to be absolutely huge for for the woman's game.
Alex Cork 21:26
Yeah, absolutely. Well, if they were to look for some support with that pathway, which is a very common thing to ask for, what does you and your Crimson team I know we're like, stacked with like some really amazing athletes in terms of not just the students coming through, but obviously, on your side, in terms of helping students through this pathway was really great consultants helping students but what would the the kind of support that Crimson offers could help students to navigate not only the recruitment side, but you know, understand nio a little bit better as well?
Tessa Berger 22:00
Yeah, knowledge is power, in every sense of the word and use what we endeavor to do with my team at Crimson as make sure that, you know, students that are based internationally aren't just, you know, aware of the due process. And, you know, the eligibility side of things and things that ultimately you need to be doing throughout those high schooling years in order to build a competitive candidacy, to even put yourself in a position where you're going to get some interest from schools, but really focusing on the holistic element of the process as a whole. Ultimately, I mean, I was in a very fortunate position, I had 40, something odd, full division one scholarship offers, and those were pretty much top 100 universities and day one, I was in a very privileged position, but trying to actually figure out at the end of the day, what school was the best overall fit for me, it was about the most challenging aspect of it. So it's not all about the opportunity, it's about where that opportunity is, and making sure that you're getting the right expertise. So at the end of the day, when you're applying to schools, and you're gaining admission, and packing up your stuff, and shipping out and landing in the US that you've made a good all around choice. And as you say, I mean, in in IML, and this name, image and likeness is just added another piece to the equation. So for us, it's Yep, ensuring that our students end up in a really good space and a great environment at great universities in the US. But ensuring, too, that, you know, they're really able to make the most of the time that they've got on the ground over there. So they can go on and whether is to further pursue a career in sport, or they're really just looking to leverage that athletic ability to put themselves in a position where they're gaining a degree for free at a really well recognized world renowned University, whatever that path looks like that ultimately, you can get that tailored support to put you in the best possible position to be getting those outcomes.
Alex Cork 24:02
Yeah, well, I completely agree that it's not necessarily about the opportunities, but where those opportunities are at. And I know that a lot of students and parents can kind of only say the word scholarship and you know, see dollar signs, and they'll just run at any kind of, you know, it's like the, the red cloth type of thing. It's like, when you wave that in front of a student's face, it's hard not to just charge it. And then you know, unfortunately, a lot of students end up at colleges, they're like, in the middle of nowhere, and they don't have the support academically or whatever. And it's just not what they were looking for, from their experience. I know you bailed on your scholarship, right? Like, that's, that's like a common unfortunately, it's quite a common thing, right? Where students try and navigate this thing, or DIY and then end up at a college that they're just like, what am I doing here and this is not what I signed up for. I you know, important to get the right advice and end up in a school that like fits you from the sport, the academics, the environment and all these other aspects, right.
Tessa Berger 24:59
Yeah. It's like 30 something odd percent now of New Zealand and Australian based student athletes that end up walking away from their collegiate experiences. And, as you say, I'm like the what not to do example with all the opportunity in the world, and ultimately making the wrong choice around the decision around the school that I ended up moving forward with my top 10 ranked school in the country, one of the best and most competitive entrepreneurship programs, which is really important for me from a business sense, I wanted to be in a strong environment, but overall, I was in a, in a space within a university and a culture that just didn't align with who I was. And I realized quite quickly that, hey, I think it was honestly like week two where I was like, I don't think this is gonna work out. And of course, I could have transferred and many student athletes, you know, find themselves in that position where they do have to kind of, you know, put on their boats and say, oh, I've got a, I've got to head across state and find another university. But so many, it's nearly 40% of Ozzie and Kiwi athletes end up walking away, which just should not exist. And ultimately, is a big reason as to why I ended up coming full circle in this process and saying, Well, if I can look at myself as a bit of a case study, how can you be a candidate that's in the best position academically and athletically, which that many offers and still get it so wrong? So what is happening with all of these other athletes that are in that 1%? recruit, you know, basket? What's happening with the rest of those athletes where, you know, surely, gosh, they can't be making the right decisions, either? How do we ensure that across the board, you know, however, your candidates, he looks at how we have a strong of an overall candidate you are? How do we make sure that based off of targeting expectations, and what you're wanting is a human being as much as an athlete and an academic? How do we ensure that we can find that alignment before you are in the position where offers are being tabled? So you aren't getting skewed by Yep, the dollar signs and the amount of scholarship funding you're being offered, or the F way that ranking of the school or you know, whether it's a D1 or a D2 school, or the Academic Ranking of the university, whatever it may be, that you know that you're ultimately deciding with a school? Because overall, it's the best fit for you?
Alex Cork 27:30
Yeah, yeah. Well, for student athletes, and parents of student athletes listening, I would definitely recommend checking out the link in the show notes, too, we do a free consultation with some of our advisors. Because if you're going through this pathway, I mean, I've known Tessa, we don't have like four or five years. Yeah, it's like, fantastic to see what is possible when students work with really good advice and really good knowledge. And I think a lot of the time students are relying on the advice of the experiences of someone else, whether that be a coach, or like a friend who's gone overseas. And it's usually a very limited experience, you know, might only be a handful colleges they spoke to or a handful of coaches that they know overseas. And you know, they're trying to pick from this really selected group of people that they have a connection with. And it just doesn't often work out the way that hope. So having people like yourself and the other fantastic consultants that we have in in the athletic space, just gives students so much bigger perspective about what's on offer and what might actually be the best fit like it's so worth taking the time to figure it all out. So we really recommend students check that out. I'll leave that link in the show notes. But Tessa, it's been awesome chatting about name image likeness. Hopefully it inspires students to chase that dream and not just the pro dream, but also, you know, making really good backs whilst in college. So yeah, awesome to chat and wishing you all the best rest of the day there.
Tessa Berger 28:52
Thank you so much, Alex.