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NIL Deals for Illinois State Athletes

Written by on October 12, 2022

Photo provided courtesy of Illinois State University 

NORMAL, Ill.-  Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals have recently leapfrogged their way to the forefront of the college sports.

The taboo subject of collegiate athletes getting paid while they’re in college is now a thing of the past. College athletes can now be paid for their image and likeness wherein previous years their persona could be used for profit solely for their University. Maya Bulger and Dayton Hammes have bridged the gap between Illinois State University’s athletes and the NCAA with the vISUalize program.

Bulger was hired as Director of Name, Image, and Likeness & Community Engagement in June of 2022 while Hammes, an internal hire, transitioned into the role of Director of Social Media, NIL & Student-Athlete Branding at the end of May 2022.

“I think I’ve made it to this part of my role due to my time at ISU,” Hammes said. “NIL is such a new thing and both of us are at an advantage being younger and being forward thinking.”

Bulger touched on how her previous experience properly prepared her for her current role at ISU.

“I worked with a sports agency that worked collegiate athletes,” said Bulger. “Some of those colleges would include Michigan State and Oregon State. Illinois State offered something I wasn’t getting from the sports agency and that’s dealing with athletes here and that’s my audience, I get to develop relationships with these athletes.”

Upon entering into ISU athletics, athletes will meet with Hammes and Bulger to discuss what future NIL deals could look like for them.

“What we typically do here is we meet with every team when they first get here and tell them what name, image, and likeness is,” Bulger explained. “And then let them know what they can and can’t do with NIL.”

After a brief overview conversation with Bulger, athletes then meet with Hammes where they’ll clean up their social media to make them marketable for businesses. This social media bootcamp is essential in the acquisition of these deals because businesses are looking to market themselves with athletes that have similar values and audiences as the business they are working with.

A common misconception with NIL deals is that they are used in the recruiting process to bring big time athletes to big time universities. Bulger touched on how this misconception just isn’t a reality for college athletes.

“You can’t get an NIL deal before you get here, you can’t start that process until they are a student enrolled here,” said Bulger.

Hammes spoke on how athletes take advantage of social media in this modern age of technology.

“I would say a lot of our deals we’ve had Illinois State have come through social media,” said Hammes. “I haven’t seen a ton of athletes at the mid-major level really try to capitalize on that video presence or the influencer lifestyle”

For Bulger and Hammes, it’s seeing some of the unique NIL deal stories which really make their jobs worthwhile.

“One of my favorites has been Kobe Rios story where he donated all of his money back to western avenue,” Bulger said. “Those are the stories that get men going because its more than just generating money, you’re effecting a bigger community in that sense and developing yourself as an individual… Every NIL deal has it’s own unique twist.”

NIL deals aren’t only a resource for student athletes to have income while in college, but a way to give back to the community, add skills for life after sports, and add to their own professional portfolio.