Kristi Snyder couldn’t help but think of the possibilities.
On April 16, Gov. Tate Reeves announced Mississippi would become one of the first states to allow college athletes to profit off the use of their own name, image and likeness.
Snyder, the general manager of Parker Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Starkville, and her coworkers immediately processed the news.
“Our minds just started racing,” Snyder said.
As a Mississippi State alumni-owned business just a mile and a half from the campus, the Parker dealership is ready to cash in just over a week from now when the bill becomes effective July 1. Snyder has forged a partnership with Icon Source, which offers a secure platform for brands and athletes to connect and strike endorsement deals.
“We’re just really excited about the opportunity to put some things out there for kids to be able to have an opportunity and promote us at the same time,” Snyder said.
Icon Source already serves more than 2,000 athletes on a professional platform that launched more than two years ago, according to Drew Butler, executive vice president for the new collegiate platform. Butler said the company has several hundred college athletes across the country who have made profiles that sit locked and hidden, waiting for 12:01 a.m. on the effective date in their states. Then brands can search by hometown, school, sport and other criteria to find the right athlete.
Federal or NCAA legislation could come down the road, but for Mississippi and five other states — Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Texas and New Mexico — that day will be July 1, a date that Butler said will offer “a collective deep breath” for his company.
“We’ve just been thrown into hyperdrive the last six weeks or so as universities are scrambling, trying to figure out, ‘How are we going to monitor and know where our student-athletes are going to find deal flow?’” Butler said.
Mississippi State is among several colleges in states with impending NIL legislation to help its athletes navigate a new field. On May 11, the school announced it would begin implementing the COMPASS platform, which will provide athletes with education about the NIL law, deal disclosure and compliance monitoring tools, over the summer semester.
And Icon Source has its own precautions for helping athletes keep their feet as they tread new ground, some unsteadily.
“Student-athletes are understanding that they will need to have the ability to engage directly with brands, and that’s the most important thing because we’re going to provide them that platform with contract templates that protect them,” Butler said.
“We insure the transaction to make sure that they’re going to get paid. And we will keep the universities’ compliance departments up to date on the happenings of the deal flow with their student-athletes, which is ultimately important.”
Snyder, too, has a plan in place. She’s seen thousands of people closely follow Mississippi State sports teams, mentioning women’s basketball and baseball as markets to tap. Three Bulldog baseball players in particular have more than 5,000 Twitter followers.
“That’s exciting to me as a local business opportunity for us to get our name and our brand — the Parker Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram — out in front of potentially thousands of people who may not have considered shopping with us before,” Snyder said.
Social media activations are one of four ways athletes can use Icon Source. The others are a digital media shoot like an online ad or a TV commercial; a speaking engagement within a company or business; and a public appearance such as an autograph signing or showing up at a camp.
Snyder said she hopes signing local athletes will help draw business to the dealership, which is fairly new — it has been open less than five years.
“We’re just hoping to have the opportunity to tap into a market of people who may not have considered us as a brand to shop with,” she said. “Some people may have just kind of forgotten about us. We’re just hoping we can kind of reawaken the interest for our brand in our market.”
Butler said the ability for athletes to be compensated for NIL is “long overdue” — and there could be more progress in that area on the horizon. On Monday in NCAA v. Alston, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled against college sports’ governing body in a decision that criticized the NCAA’s antitrust protections and its amateurism model.
“The NCAA is not above the law,” Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh concluded in a concurring opinion.
Butler said the decision doesn’t pertain specifically to NIL, “but it does move it to the forefront of the conversation with positive momentum on behalf of the student-athletes.”
“2021 is going to be the year of the college athlete,” he promised. “There are a lot of things working in their favor.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.