Name, Image, and Likeness a Game Changer for College Athletics

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August 1, 2023

The landscape of college sports is ever-changing, be it the expansion of the transfer portal, league realignment, or the increasing value of personal brand. Nationwide, college athletics is experiencing a substantial change due to the rapid implementation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of rules on athletes accepting benefits and earning money for their name, image, and likeness (NIL). During these changing times, the St. John’s Athletic Department remains focused on developing all aspects of the student-athlete experience.

At the core of the NCAA has always been amateurism. NIL has transformed that idea by allowing student-athletes to receive financial compensation—bringing a marked change to college sports.

In June 2021, the US Supreme Court ruled in NCAA v. Alston, a loosely related case, that the association could not bar member schools from offering certain education-related benefits to student-athletes. This new NIL policy allows all NCAA Division I, II, and III student-athletes to be compensated for their NIL as of July 1, 2021, regardless of whether their state has a NIL law.

NIL is a process for athletes to receive financial compensation for the brand they build while in college. For example, players may profit from endorsements, signing autographs, selling apparel, corporate partnerships, charitable appearances, teaching camps, and starting their own businesses, among other activities. They can also hire professional service providers for NIL activities.

Since various state laws and NCAA rules went into effect, student-athletes may now profit from their own name, image, and likeness. The federal and various state governments have begun to undertake legislative efforts to better regulate what is already underway. According to the NCAA:

  • Athletes can engage in NIL activities in compliance with state laws, and colleges can be a resource for NIL legal questions.
  • Athletes can use professional service providers to help navigate NIL activities.
  • Student-athletes in states without NIL laws can still engage in such activities without violating NCAA rules.
  • States, individual colleges, and athletic conferences may impose reporting requirements.

NCAA rules still prevent schools from directly paying players, and coaches may not offer high school prospects money as a recruiting enticement.

  • Deals must have a “quid pro quo.” The athlete must do something in return for payment, such as providing a service or making a social media post.
  • No deal or payment can be tied to an athlete’s athletic performance or achievement.
  • NIL deals cannot be recruiting inducements, meaning deals cannot be offered in return for a commitment to attend a specific school.
  • Schools cannot enter NIL deals with their athletes. All deals must be made through brands or outside agencies.

To help navigate this new practice, many of these business deals are now set up through “collectives,” which are separate, third-party businesses typically formed by boosters or fans of a specific school with the stated purpose of creating and supporting NIL opportunities for the school’s student-athletes. They use a business plan that pools financial contributions from donors to facilitate NIL deals for student-athletes.

For supporters of St. John’s Athletics, one of the first such collectives created is Storm Marketing, LLC, an administrative and marketing group not directly affiliated with the University or its administration. Based in Mineola, NY, and led by founding partner Vin Ochani ’06CPS, ’10L, Storm Marketing, LLC, also includes St. John’s School of Law graduates Adam Dressler ’10L; Justin Kramer ’04TCB, ’07L; and Richard Seelig ’09L. All but Mr. Kramer are lawyers at Seelig Dressler Ochani, LLC, and longtime St. John’s fans.

“We structure a majority of our deals with guaranteed compensation for our brand ambassadors,” explained Mr. Ochani. “Storm Marketing combines direct marketing, local ads, and business-focused events and works to improve and enhance the lives of St. John’s student-athletes—as well as grow our client’s brand through
NIL opportunities.”

By facilitating deals between the athletes and businesses, Storm Marketing helps connect student-athletes with businesses such as Cafeína water, Verizon, and The Bayview, a catering hall in Freeport, NY, to name just a few. Fans can purchase subscriptions for varying membership levels that provide access, information, exclusive events, and regular financial support of NIL opportunities for specific Red Storm Athletic teams.

“If you are going to purchase a wireless phone plan, car insurance, or even a coffee at Double J Deli, why not support those businesses that support St. John’s student-athletes?” asked Mr. Ochani.

“We want St. John’s student-athletes to compete on a level playing field, so we take an integrated approach that includes business opportunities and academic enrichment,” stated Mike Cragg, Director of Athletics. “In a global city like New York, St. John’s aims to leverage all the exposure opportunities afforded to our student-athletes with an unparalleled media market, coupled with access to world-renowned businesses and brands. It makes our athletic program one of the most historic and exciting in college sports.”

To that end, Mr. Cragg worked with the deans from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies on the creation of courses for a distinct academic program tailored for NIL. The management minor in Sports Leadership and Branding is designed for student-athletes and nonathlete undergraduate students who are motivated to develop and sharpen their managerial and promotional skills to manage their name, image, and likeness as permitted by statutes, regulations, standards, and policies.

“St. John’s is a family, and at Storm Marketing we put family first,” said Mr. Ochani. “We want the greater family of fans to know about the many new and creative ways to support Red Storm Athletics. Creating stability in NIL support is essential as it helps navigate the changing times.”

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