By Sean Ellenby, NIL Marketing and Communications
In case you missed it, 6th-year Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford is taking agency of future NIL opportunities through … well his own agency.
"It's the agency that I was looking for that I couldn't find," Clifford told ESPN. "It's for the players, by the players. I wanted to do something to leave even more of a legacy than just on the field. And I thought that this was kind of the way that I wanted to go."
What does a player-run agency mean for NIL?
Ultimately this means athletes are getting smarter and savvier when it comes to NIL. With a season’s worth of NIL experience under their belts, they have experienced firsthand the benefits and pitfalls of potential deals and relationships.
The introduction of NIL, paired with the transfer portal, has demonstrated a massive shift of power to student-athletes. The news of Clifford’s new agency falls directly in line with this shift.
Clifford mentioned in his comments that he didn’t feel as if his personal interests, in addition to his peers’, were being best represented by professional agencies.
Knowing how much student-athletes have on their plates on a daily basis, it says a lot that an athlete would take on the challenge of running their own agency.
To Clifford’s credit, it’s a smart play in terms of getting a head start on what could be a future career as a sports agent in the field of collegiate athletics.
Does this mean news mean anything to Campus Ink?
Actually in a lot of ways, yes.
It’s a portrait into the psyche of an upper-echelon player who also understands the plight of the rest of his teammates.
Later in the ESPN article, Clifford says: “A lot of bigger agencies lack the strategy for content creation and the marketing specialty, what athletes should be posting day in and out. How they should be building their brand and interacting with community."
From a merchandising and branding standpoint, the team at Campus Ink satisfies what Clifford laments.
Campus Ink offers that special one-on-one relationship when collaborating with its athletes, building an athletes’ brand from the ground up via social media, creative tactics and, of course, merchandise.
It has been demonstrated through the Illini Store, which offers custom merchandise to Illinois men’s basketball players from All-American Kofi Cockburn all the way down to players outside of the rotation.
Not So Fast … Professional Agencies Aren’t Going Anywhere
Despite Clifford’s personal experiences with professional agencies, I wouldn’t be so fast to discredit the value of professional agencies in the collegiate space.
First, professional agencies are navigating through NIL just the same as everyone else. They are actively finding their role in the collegiate space and are undoubtedly aligning resources while working through state-by-state legislation.
And most importantly, professional agencies will continue to remain vital for the assistance and knowledge they can provide in all aspects of an athlete’s career. Whether it’s negotiating a fair market value contract, opening doors to potential sponsorships or simply career advice, professional agencies can be invaluable to an athlete.
You can be sure, however, that professional agencies have taken note of Clifford’s announcement.
Just as collegiate athletes are get savvier in the NIL space, so will sports agencies.