Belzer said that he has envisioned a conference for college athletes to share ideas and have conversations about the future of college athletics from the time when he was running track at Rutgers. The advent of NIL has provided a framework for such an event. It’s his hope that the event can be an opportunity for growth and networking; the three-day event (June 13-15) has multiple tracks for participants to follow, including social-media marketing, brand management, entrepreneurship, influencer marketing and career development.
Belzer has lined up representatives from Facebook, Instagram, the talent agency Wasserman and professional athletes to share their insights on brand building, influencing, partnering with companies and like topics in keynote addresses, panels and workshops. Meta, the company name of Facebook (which owns Instagram) is an event partner, as is Wasserman. There will also be an awards program recognizing the athletes for their NIL usage.
“The goal of this event is to not just have somebody come in and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to teach you how to do X, Y,Z,’” Belzer said. “It’s to have the brands and the organizations who are the subject-matter experts leading that curriculum.”
Belzer called Atlanta the “mecca of college sports” because of the slew of championship-level events that it hosts, as well as for the number of companies that are involved in college sports on a sponsorship level, such as Home Depot, Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A.
“I know it is going to be huge for Atlanta,” he said.
Any college can send up to 10 athletes to the event, which carries a $500 registration fee. (Belzer said that the event will not make money off of athletes. “That is not our intention or goal in this,” he said.) NCAA rules permit schools to cover the costs of attending. The event also will invite a group of athletes from historically Black colleges and universities to attend at no cost.
The title sponsor is INFLCR, a software platform used by hundreds of college athletic departments (including Georgia Tech, Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State) and thousands of athletes that is a major player in NIL.
Of athletes at schools served by the platform (more than 200 at the Division I level) who disclosed their NIL deals to their schools, 29% have been football players, followed by track and field athletes at 10% and men’s basketball players at 8%, according to information provided by company founder and CEO Jim Cavale. The male/female breakdown is 59/41. The mean average compensation for each deal was $1,291. The median was $51, meaning that there were as many deals worth less than $51 as there were worth more than that.
While there have been lucrative deals for many athletes, Cavale sees a learning opportunity for athletes at the end of the first year of NIL. He recalled how, on the day that NIL became permissible by NCAA rules, perhaps hundreds of college athletes posted social-media messages that declared themselves open for NIL business but were barely distinguishable from one to the next.
“As if, like, on July 2, a bunch of money was just going to show up in their bank account,” Cavale said. “That’s not what this is. And they’ve learned that, and they’ve seen the success stories and learned that this is going to be a real business they have to build. Not only do they have to play well on the field and court, but they have to take initiative with their brand on social media and do this thing in a way that is going to be some extra work, but there could be extra opportunity and money there.”