From $10 to six figures, NIL deals help Badger athletes cash in

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MADISON, Wis. – From birthday shoutouts to six-figure deals, student-athletes can now be paid for their image name and likeness, and the Wisconsin Badgers are digging deep into the NIL game. 

“Athletes from all 23 of our sports have at least some kind of NIL engagement, and that’s ranged everything from getting a free meal to promote a business on social media all the way up to student-athletes that’ve earned well into the six figures over the course of an academic year,” said UW’s director of NIL strategy Brian Mason. 

“We have a marketplace called the YouDub marketplace, it’s forward facing, it’s open to the public, any brand, fan, (or) business can pitch deals to student-athletes, everything from a shoutout to promoting their business on social media,” he said.

Profiting off their name, image, likeness, or status as an athlete used to earn them a suspension or worse. Now, schools are helping students profit.

UW-Madison recently formed an NIL department led by Mason.

Athletes set their prices and parameters; the university can only provide guidance, with all brokering done by athletes and all the money goes in the athletes’ pockets. 

For instance, Pepsi paid Braelon Allen and Graham Mertz to appear on billboards. These deals, by rule, must be brokered by the athletes. But to be clear, a person can’t just give a player $100 and a handshake. 

“Any NIL payment has to come with an action, so athletes, yeah, cannot just take money, they have to do something in exchange for that money,” Mason said.

NIL helps secure athletes’ financial futures and develops business skills too, such as negotiating contracts and being a brand ambassador. Mason said those skills will help on the field too.

“For us to be the program that we want to be, to compete at the championship level that [Athletic Director] Chris McIntosh talks about, we need to be a place that is embracing NIL which we have from the start, and giving our students the tools to be successful,” Mason said.