South Carolina partners with Sports Marketing Agency to become the first major college program with in-house NIL

South Carolina became the first major college sports division to partner with a sports marketing agency to establish an in-house company for name, image and likeness, where Gamecocks athletes have free access to deal facilitation, content creation and branding services.

The school has hired Everett Sports Management (ESM) to launch Park Ave, an exclusive initiative that will provide NIL services to Gamecocks athletes. The South Carolina Board of Trustees on Tuesday afternoon approved a two-year, $2.2 million contract. Everett Sports Management, headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, represents NFL players such as Galen Hurts, Mac Jones and Jonathan Taylor, and handles NIL marketing for numerous college athletes, including Miami basketball players and social media stars Haley and Hannah Cavender, Midfielder for Georgia Stetson Bennett and Coastal Carolina Grayson McCall quarterback.

“There have been a lot of different approaches[towards the NIL]and no one has gone that way,” South Carolina sports director Ray Tanner told ESPN. “We are confident that this will be an impressive situation for our young men and women to play sports and have a brand at the highest level.”

South Carolina law allows schools to help athletes secure nil deals. Other states impose restrictions on how schools can participate in this process.

According to the agreement, ESM will not represent athletes in South Carolina while they are in school, and will be an “auxiliary service” for athletes who already have nil agents.

“Park Avenue will be offering deals to student-athletes, and they’re going to help facilitate those deals through us, so student-athletes get the whole deal,” South Carolina deputy athletics director Chance Miller told ESPN. “(The athletes) don’t pay a percentage to any representative company. We pay that fee to them. You might have an agent, you might have a marketing rep, and that’s great. You can still work with them, and (Everett Sports can still manage) you bargains.”

ESM has appointed five new employees to oversee the South Carolina initiative and cannot partner with any other school during the first year of the agreement. In the second year, ESM cannot partner with other SEC or in-state schools.

“This was a big deal, the fact that they have a staff that is willing to support us in an exclusive way,” Tanner said.

Miller, who has known ESM President Dan Everett and partner Jeff Hoffman for more than 10 years, began working on the partnership before July 2021, when college athletes were allowed to take advantage of their name, image and likeness. South Carolina privately funded the initial agreement, which could eventually be incorporated into its sports budget.

Miller said ESM’s proximity to campus played an important role in the deal. The five new South Carolina employees will work with the athletes both on campus and in the company’s studio and office in Greenville.

“College players have no experience representing college athletes in name, image, and example; it’s a full 180 of what we’ve done throughout history,” Miller told ESPN. “Dan and Jeff and their team have done this year after year for professional athletes, and they’ve done it to a high standard, especially with their NFL clients. This group will say, ‘You have 1.2 million followers.'” This is what companies should target. This is what you should ask for every sponsored post.

“They took a look at our rosters, and they took a look at the student-athletes’ social media accounts. They’re really ready to go.”

South Carolina has many notable athletes, including Wooden Award winner Alia Boston of the National School Women’s Basketball Team Champion; quarterback Spencer Rattler, Heisman Cup contender in 2021 in Oklahoma; and JJ Jackson, the upcoming men’s basketball player ranked by ESPN as the No. 6 player in his category. ESPN recently ranked Boston, who has 107,000 followers on Instagram, as the most marketable college basketball player, followed by the Miami’s Cavinder twins.

“This allows them to promote themselves in a very professional way, not some of the cameras shooting an iPhone ad,” South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer told ESPN. “South Carolina is as well positioned as any school in the country from a nothing point of view because of our location, the capital, SEC, we don’t compete with professional sports. This is just another way to capitalize on that and allow our youth to truly thrive.”

“My biggest question was, ‘When can we start?'” “Because you see the benefits from it in many different areas.”

Tanner said Park Ave will primarily benefit the 25-35 top South Carolina athletes, but the goal is also to incorporate other players into their teams. Last season, ESM facilitated NIL deals for North Carolina star Sam Howell, which also included some of his Tar Heels teammates.

“It’s great, not just for big-name players but even players who aren’t as recognized as they should be,” Rattler told ESPN. “It will help to get the players’ names out there, help the players on the team in a lot of different sports. It’s great because we are the first school in the country to do that with a big agency. They will come and help us, the more fun people will be.”

South Carolina has two NIL outdoor groups, and the athletic department communicates with them weekly. In 2021, the school partnered with Altius, an NIL consulting and education firm, and INFLCR, a NIL social content-sharing platform.

The difference with ESM, according to South Carolina officials, is direct marketing experience and current relationships with brands such as Eastbay and Champs Sports.

“A lot of donors donate to groups, but many are reluctant,” Tanner said. “I have not had a single donor who has not embraced the idea of ​​a national marketing company that has excelled in this field. For us, this is very unique. We still have two groups supporting us. But this has the opportunity to take it to a different level.”

Miller regularly attends meetings with South Carolina football and basketball recruits, who often ask about the financial figure the school can secure through NIL deals. The ESM partnership is designed to generate sustainable revenue for Gamecocks athletes.

“We’re trying to put people somewhere else, where they’re not going to try to get you to that number and then move on,” Miller said. “Not only can you get that number, but you can probably get more than that number, and you’ll get it all the time here, and then you walk out the door and you get those brands that will continue to work with you.”

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