As a nutrition major, Hannah Sykes had given some thought to creating a YouTube channel where she passed along what she had learned and how she applied it to her life as a Colorado State swimmer. Just about to head into her sophomore year, she did so with one real goal in mind, which was to start branding herself for the job market long before she ever finished her degree.
“That’s what it was for me. Because I’m in the field of nutrition, that was a big portion of my videos,” Sykes said. “I have other types of content, but that’s a big chunk of it – food, what I eat, how I cook and shop. That’s what I’m majoring in, dietetics, so I want to be a dietician. There are a lot of routes I’d like to go with that. I’d love to be a dietician for a sports team, but I’d also love the opportunity to build a brand for myself and be able to make my own meal plans. There are many routes I’d like to be able to take with my degree. I figured I should build myself a name in the field of nutrition before I graduate, and a really relevant way to do that nowadays is through social media. It’s one of the easiest and most profound ways to do that.”
Her videos, which range from how she shops and eats to her workouts and daily life, started to pick up viewers to the point it was monetized, meaning ads started showing up on her videos. Over the summer, companies started to reach out to her with promotional ideas.
She also knew she couldn’t profit from them, and after contacting the CSU compliance department to see if there were partnerships she could form without profit (none were possible), she had to turn them down. Now, flash forward a year, and the window is suddenly wide open.
As of July 1, 2021, The NCAA is now allowing for student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness, nearly 20 years after Jeremy Bloom took the NCAA to court for the right for him to do so as a freestyle skier. The organization, which has long had the topic on the table, has not constructed any guidelines for their membership, but are allowing student-athletes to profit from NIL through university or state regulations. There are 22 states – Colorado included – which have signed NIL laws into effect, and none of them are exactly the same.
Colorado State, unlike some other universities, has put no limitations on what offers student-athletes may connect with at this point. Other schools have put limitations in place in line with school and NCAA athletic codes, particularly gambling organizations and tobacco companies.
Despite the conversation being in the marketplace for some time, the introduction of student-athletes being able to capitalize on their name, image and likeness is a new horizon. The prospect of doors opening is exciting, partially because no one is quite sure what direction – or directions – it may take.
“There are so many possibilities because of this now. I think it’s cool,” Sykes said. “I think it will be interesting to see how everybody uses this in their own unique way. There’s no one direction you can go with it. There are unlimited possibilities.”