NIL: How LegalZoom can help student-athletes with a name, image, and likeness game plan

Setting up a business as a collegiate athlete doesn't have to be complicated. LegalZoom's NIL Game Plan simplifies the process.

by Kendra Stowe
updated May 11, 2023 ·  4min read

As a collegiate athlete, you want to be set up for success. Making an A on that term paper, hearing a swish on the court, catching the touchdown pass, making the hole in one, perfecting your backstroke—collegiate athletes have many different ways to thrive. When it comes to success with NIL, LegalZoom has the perfect game plan.

Whether starting your own business, registering for a trademark, protecting your intellectual property, or even negotiating contracts, LegalZoom has tools available that will help you with your name, image, and likeness journey.

UCLA Bruins quarterback Chase Griffin

Introduction of NIL

For years, colleges and universities financially benefitted from their athletics programs, while the athletes themselves received no compensation. In fact, it was illegal for any college athlete to receive compensation for their name, image, or likeness.

On July 1, 2021, the tables turned when NIL was introduced to collegiate athletics by the NCAA. This policy allowed all incoming and current student-athletes the opportunity to earn money from NIL deals, as long as they follow the laws associated with the state where their college or university is. However, NIL hasn't been particularly easy for college athletes to navigate. The lack of clear-cut NCAA policies has created a host of problems and confusion around many aspects of NIL, especially as it relates to one's brand. As NIL progresses, it is critical to understand the legal basics to protect yourself and your brand. LegalZoom produced a series of informative articles and resources to help you take control and safely navigate the NIL era.

Using LegalZoom for your NIL game plan

When you better understand elements such as contract basics, trademarks, and forming a business, you set yourself up for success. LegalZoom provides information to athletes so that they can position themselves in a way that not only protects their likeness but also safeguards their image and reputation.

Forming an LLC or 501(c)(3)

If your dream has always been to create a business while maintaining a life as a student-athlete, that's when it's time to form a business such as a limited liability corporation (LLC) or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. LegalZoom offers products and services that can take your NIL business to the next level by officially registering it as an entity that's recognized by your state. LegalZoom can assist with things like legal documents, real-time advice from attorneys, and more to provide you with the tools you need to decide how you want to run a business.

Setting up a business as a collegiate athlete doesn't have to be complicated or confusing. Learn how others in this space have successfully done it by taking a deeper dive.

Protecting your intellectual property

Intellectual property, or IP, is a legal term that includes trademarks. A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of these things that identifies your goods or services as a student-athlete. Whether you have a logo, a hashtag, or maybe even a line of merchandise, it's essential to protect your brand. LegalZoom's products and services streamline the trademark process from start to finish to ensure the undertaking is as simple and easy to understand as possible. If you're not ready to trademark yet, it's still beneficial to have a working knowledge of IP law to know what you can and can't do.

Did you know there are three different types of trademark protection? Take a look at how Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz has taken advantage and protected his likeness.

Understanding contract basics and what to look For

Margzetta Frazier, a gymnast at UCLA, practices on the balance beam.

An NIL deal is simply a contract. It's not safe to assume a contract is always protecting you as the athlete, so make sure you carefully review what's expected and required. LegalZoom can connect you to an independent attorney who can review your contract (limitations apply) and guide you through uncharted waters with statements of work, influencer deals, or even multi-year deals.

Margzetta Frazier of UCLA Gymnastics used LegalZoom to navigate through her NIL contracts. To learn more about what to look for, check out this advice.

Making sure you're protected financially

While the ability to earn compensation from NIL activities is a significant win for college athletes, NIL earnings for college athletes come with tax consequences. When the NIL deals are rolling in, how do you deal with taxes? What can you write off? How do you claim that income? With a lot of gray areas in this space, it's critical to understand how to do your taxes when dealing with NIL contracts. LZ Tax may be able to offer tax services and products that can help you.

As NIL continues to grow, student-athletes must equip themselves with the tools and resources to step up their game in this space. According to LegalZoom partner OpenDorse, the NIL market will be worth $500 million by the end of 2022 and is projected to grow to more than a billion-dollar-plus industry by 2023. This makes finding a trusted partner and resource even more critical to profit from your likeness. When you include LegalZoom as a part of your NIL Game Plan, you pave the way for success.


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About the Author

Kendra Stowe

Kendra Stowe is LegalZoom's Group Manager for Social Media.… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.