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Georgetown, BIG EAST Could Lead in Potential Player Endorsements

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Partnerships and marketable players could help the Hoyas have a positive promotional reputation.

Big East Basketball Tournament: Georgetown v West Virginia Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

News that the NCAA Board of Governors is supporting a plan to allow college athletes to profit from the names, image, likeness and general promotion is gaining momentum.

NCAA athletes are currently not allowed to be paid to endorse or promote. This change was certainly set into motion by California passing a law to specifically allow endorsements, and other states looking to protect their athletes as well. The NCAA is likely embracing the endorsement rule change because it doesn’t mean they have to pay student-athletes. They are effectively hoping the rule change will make the pie bigger for everyone.

The pending rules appear to allow each player to retain a marketing agent, if desired. There are still ideas of keep “guardrails” to keep boosters out of this directly (and out of the recruiting process). Like the NBA or NFL, athletes will not be able to use school logos or uniforms.

Practically, endorsements may be first introduced as one or two of the top college athletes hired to do a promotion or commercial. For instance, a top college quarterback might be paid to appear in a regional car commercial. A famous forward may be compensated for coming to a local event (while wearing a car dealer golf shirt). A big time center my be paid to do a photo shoot for print or online ads where he appears next to a large SUV. The simplest model is to think about how Olympic athletes or college coaches appear in some commercials and at events.

Just as likely, this may allow a quasi-legal extension of the “sneaker wars.” Remember how all those coaches and programs were terminated because they allowed Adidas to pay their players? Oh wait, they weren’t punished. Now, Adidas or Nike or Under Armor may be permitted to write a check to a top prospect, if they coincidentally join a program that wears their logo.

The rules will likely prevent “boosters” from directly paying players, but each school is undoubtedly looking at how capitalism can help them recruit. Here are some ways that allowing third-party payments for image, likeness, and endorsements may help the Georgetown Hoyas.

1. Georgetown might be in a solid position to help its basketball athletes.

While I miss Georgetown being as strong a brand as it once was, it would not be hard to return to being a top-seller quickly. Georgetown has the support of Nike and Jordan Brand, which is still pretty cool int he eyes of young hoopers. While an athlete may not be able to wear school gear while endorsing, it’s unclear if a third party with a license to market each of the athlete and the school may be able to use both.

The teal Georgetown jersey, made by Jordan, might actually sell like hot cakes if properly licensed to say “MCCLUNG” on the back.

If Nike were to promote Georgetown and its top athletes, we could quickly return to the 80s and 90s, where one could walk into any athletic store on the east coast or beyond and find a hat or t-shirt with a G or bulldog on it. As weird as John Thompson II was about the media access—before turning into a media member—he did understand endorsement deals (and casinos). Thompson was on the Board for Nike for years and may still be affiliated. The story of Thompson recommending Allen Iverson take the Reebok money highlights Thompson’s appreciation of endorsement deals.

Likewise, the current folks at McDonough need to facilitate endorsements as much as they are allowed to, and they may be good at it. Just because they still stonewall journalists regularly doesn’t mean they won’t be eager to encourage the personal branding.

Ewing certainly understood endorsements—at least as explained by his super-agent David Falk. Remember, Ewing lead the NBA players’ union for several key years, and Ewing and Michael Jordan opted out of certain joint bargains by the union at times.

Ewing proudly rocks Nike gear these days, but there is a sneaker company with his name on it. Could Ewing Athletics throw Georgetown players a few bucks for photo shoots and event promotion? Maybe. It likely depends on Patrick’s current involvement and ownership, as well as the booster “guardrail” rules.

2. Georgetown could leverage corporate sponsors to help athletes

Georgetown has a deal with FOX to sell its multimedia rights. This appears to be an effort to promote Georgetown and gain corporate partnerships. There is no reason, yet, that Georgetown could not lean on current sponsors to pay some student-athletes to appear in advertisements or other promotions.

A school might be hesitant to implement a plan that could divert funds away from the students and towards the athletes, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent. The pie is getting bigger as there are new ways to promote products and services, so a school like Georgetown would be wise to encourage corporate partners to hire its athletes for photo-shoots, commercials, and appearances.

Similarly, Washington, D.C. and their retail markets are suited well for hosting player events. Boutiques on M Street would be wise to hire GU athletes of all sports to appear and/or model clothing (in-person or digitally). While we tend to focus on basketball around here, allowing sponsorship might, in fact, help bring female athletes to Georgetown as well as male athletes.

3. The BIG EAST as a whole might be in a good position

The BIG EAST Conference has at least two big advantages with the player-endorsement rule change: (i) the lack of football may make athlete numbers more manageable and (ii) current commissioner Val Ackerman is leading the working group.

The non-football sports allows more flexibility with the smaller numbers. The BIG EAST could be a test case for shoe companies and corporate sponsors looking to sign-up more than just one or two athletes. For instance, Jeep is a big sponsor of BIG EAST basketball, as seen with their logo graphic on the floor of televised games, and they could offer to do full team photo-shoots with their new truck.

Video games are the big question mark right now. EA Sports could take a while to get College Football on PlayStation and Xbox because there is no players union to directly negotiate with.

On the other hand, 2K Sports could approach 150 BIG EAST basketball players fairly easily, and maybe include a College Hoops downloadable content package as part of NBA 2K21.

4. Mac McClung is perhaps the most popular college basketball player

Some are speculating that Mac McClung is testing the NBA Draft waters because he may feel there is endorsement money left on the table. The internet phenom is well-known for his dunks and acrobatics, as well as being a well spoken young man. Now, the endorsement money might be reachable while going to college.

He’s already a “pitch man” (sorry)—Mac McClung threw out a first pitch of a minor league baseball game. Seeing McClung around kids and families and you appreciate that he’s built for handling fame and endorsements. McClung, knowing his pro aspirations and drive for success, likely won’t get a bigger head or let it interfere with his training schedule.

This endorsement permission could be what keeps McClung in college. Getting him on TV more often could make him definitively the most popular college basketball player. Imagine a commercial with Gatorade showing his best highlights and him getting after it in the weight room. Or Nike videos of McClung demonstrating new dunks. Or local car dealers could have him dunk over a nicely appointed coupe...

Mac McClung could likely use his fame to gain sponsorship at any program, but continuing at Georgetown makes the most sense—especially considering that a vote for a one-time transfer waiver appears to have been pushed until December.

Mac McClung in Washington, D.C. is a great for his exposure to the nation while keeping relatively close to his Gate City friends.

5. Social Media

We live in a day of “Sponsored Partnerships” and celebrities using their Instagram following as a targeted advertising network to sell clothing, makeup, fitness products, politics, etc.

There are Tik Tok users making millions and student athletes might be able to grab a piece of that, using their athletic notoriety. Whether it’s Mac McClung utilizing his dunks , or a new freshman showing off dance moves, there might be endorsement deals available for athletes with a big social media following.

Celebrities can directly market their virtual appearances through tech solutions like cameo.com where fans can pay a fee for a corresponding chosen celebrity to record a video with a message.

Likewise, that may mean more access to the athletes by the fan followers. Something Georgetown might not be tremendous with...