South Carolina partners with sports marketing agency to become first major college program with in-house company NIL
South Carolina becomes the first major university athletic department to partner with a sports marketing agency to create an in-house name, image and likeness business, where Gamecock athletes will have free access to transaction facilitation services , content and brand generation.
The school has engaged Everett Sports Management (ESM) to launch Park Ave, an exclusive initiative that will provide NIL services to Gamecocks athletes. The South Carolina board of directors approved the two-year, $2.2 million contract on Tuesday afternoon. Everett Sports Management, based in Greenville, SC, represents NFL players such as Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones and Jonathan Taylor, and handles NIL marketing for several college athletes, including Miami basketball players and social media stars Haley and Hanna Cavinder, Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett and Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall.
“There were a lot of different approaches (to NIL), and no one went that route,” South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner told ESPN. “We are confident that this will be a situation that will impact our young men and women to play sport and score at the maximum level.”
South Carolina state law allows schools to help athletes enter into NIL contracts. Other states place restrictions on how schools can be involved in the process.
Under the agreement, the ESM will not represent South Carolina athletes while they are in school and will be an “auxiliary service” for athletes who already have NIL agents.
“Park Avenue will bring the deals to the student-athletes, they would help facilitate those deals through us, and then the student-athletes would get the full deal,” said Chance Miller, senior assistant athletic director for South Carolina. , at ESPN. “(Athletes) don’t pay a percentage to a rep company. We pay that fee for them. You can have an agent, you can have a marketing rep, that’s great. You can still work with them, and ( Everett Sports Management) can always bring you deals.”
ESM has hired five new staff members to oversee the South Carolina initiative and cannot partner with any other schools during the first year of the agreement. In Year 2, ESM cannot partner with other SEC or state schools.
“It was a big deal, the fact that they had staff ready to support us on an exclusive basis,” Tanner said.
Miller, who has known ESM President Dan Everett and his partner Jeff Hoffman for more than 10 years, began working on a partnership before July 2021, when college athletes were allowed to use their name, image and their resemblance. South Carolina privately funded the initial deal, which could potentially be rolled into its sports budget.
ESM’s proximity to campus played a big role in the deal, Miller said. The five new employees assigned to South Carolina will work with athletes both on campus and at the company’s studio and office in Greenville.
“College athletics lacks the expertise to represent college athletes by name, image and likeness; that’s 180% of what we’ve done throughout history,” he said. Miller told ESPN. “Dan and Jeff and their team have done it year after year for professional athletes, and they’ve done it at a high level, especially with their NFL clientele. This group is going to say, ‘You have 1.2 million followers. That’s what you should be targeting companies. That’s what you should be asking for for every sponsored post.”
“They’ve looked at our rosters, they’ve looked at our student-athlete social media accounts. They’re ready to really take off.”
South Carolina has several top athletes, including Wooden Award winner Aliyah Boston of the school’s women’s national basketball team; quarterback Spencer Rattler, a 2021 preseason Heisman Trophy contender in Oklahoma; and GG Jackson, a new men’s basketball player ranked by ESPN as the No. 6 player in his class. ESPN recently ranked Boston, which has 107,000 Instagram followers, as the most marketable player in college basketball, followed by the Cavinder twins in Miami.
“It allows them to market themselves in a very, very professional way, and not through a camera filming an ad on an iPhone,” South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer told ESPN. “South Carolina is as well positioned as any school in the country from a NIL perspective because of where we are located, capital, SEC, we are not in competition with professional sports. It’s just another way to capitalize on that and allow our guys to really thrive.
“My biggest question was, ‘How soon can we start?’ Because you see the benefits in so many different areas.”
Tanner said Park Ave will primarily benefit South Carolina’s top 25 to 35 athletes, but the goal is to get other players on their teams as well. Last season, the ESM facilitated NIL deals for North Carolina star quarterback Sam Howell, which also involved some of his Tar Heels teammates.
“It’s great, not just for the big names, but even for the guys who aren’t as recognized as they should be,” Rattler told ESPN. “It will help get guys’ names out there, help guys on the team in a lot of different sports. It’s cool because we’re the first school in the country to do this with a big agency. They’re going to come in and help us, so the more the merrier.
South Carolina has two external NIL collectives, which the athletic department communicates with weekly. In 2021, the school partnered with Altius, a NIL consulting and education company, and INFLCR, a NIL social content sharing platform.
The difference with ESM, according to South Carolina officials, is direct marketing expertise and existing relationships with brands such as Eastbay and Champs Sports.
“A lot of donors give to collectives, but many are reluctant,” Tanner said. “I haven’t had a single donor who hasn’t embraced the idea of a national marketing company that has excelled in this area. For us, that’s very unique. We still have two collectives supporting us But it has an opportunity to take it to another level.”
Miller regularly attends meetings with South Carolina football and basketball recruits, who often ask what financial number the school can guarantee with NIL agreements. The ESM partnership is designed to create sustainable income for Gamecocks athletes.
“We try to put people around, where they won’t try to get you to that number and then move on,” Miller said. “Not only can you get this number, but maybe you can get more than this number, and you get it for the whole time here, and then you go out and you have these brands that are going to continue to work with you.”