Nearly one year ago the college football world changed forever when the NCAA permitted student athletes to be compensated for their Name, Image and Likeness. What has become known as NIL quickly altered the landscape, especially on the recruiting front, with players getting extra incentives to attend high profile college football programs.
The West Coast has been slower to jump on the NIL bandwagon, at least in an organized way. On Wednesday the Trojans threw their hat into the NIL ring with an announced partnership with Stay Doubted, a modern-day media company creating original digital, audio, and physical programming for next-generation audiences passionate about the intersection of athlete lifestyle and culture.
Any USC student-athlete who wants a professional service provider to support their pursuit of NIL opportunities will soon have that service available to them through a third-party agency. USC Athletics has reached an agreement with Stay Doubted, a modern-day media agency empowering the next generation of student-athletes and fans, to provide enhanced NIL services to its student-athletes, USC Director of Athletics Mike Bohn announced today (June 15) .
Stay Doubted has managed over $63 million in sports partnerships, including more than $1 million in collegiate athlete partnerships in the first year of the NIL era. It also has an impressive client roster in the brand partnerships space, having worked with companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, State Farm, Verizon, lululemon, and many others.
Stay Doubted has established a subsidiary, BLVD LLC., which will operate as an agency and media company that will exclusively serve USC student-athletes to assist with the development of NIL opportunities. Stay Doubted will have at least seven full-time employees dedicated to BLVD activities.
“From the moment the NCAA revised its rules regarding the use of NIL, President Carol L. Folt encouraged me to develop the best NIL support program in the nation for our student-athletes consistent with our vision to be the most student-athlete centered program in the country,” said Bohn. “We offer dozens of services to support all aspects of the student-athlete experience: coaching, medical, academic, nutrition, strength training, sports psychology, career planning, and so many more. NIL is a new dimension of the student-athlete experience, and we want to provide best-in-class services to our student-athletes in this area as we do all others.”
“I am grateful to President Folt for her leadership and guidance as we developed this program. We have patiently studied the NIL environment both within our program and nationally to inform our decision-making. We believe every student-athlete should have access to NIL support resources and currently only about 3% of our student-athletes have engaged professional service providers. We strive to support our student-athletes in all ways, including in the NIL space. We are thrilled to be able to meet this need and make these resources available through a qualified and reputable third party for our student-athletes should they wish to take advantage.”
All USC student-athletes will have the opportunity to voluntarily opt-in to non-exclusive NIL representation through BLVD. The student-athletes will sign their own industry-standard representation agreements with BLVD. The university will not be a party to those agreements, nor will it receive any share of revenue from student-athlete NIL endeavors. While BLVD will provide its services exclusively to USC student-athletes, those student-athletes may also supplement their BLVD representation with other professional service providers. All BLVD activities will be conducted in a manner consistent with California state laws, NCAA rules, and the USC Athletics Student-Athlete Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) Policy.
“Since the inception of NIL, the focus has been on establishing long-term sustainable structures that place student-athletes at the forefront of opportunities and industry-leading resources,” said Michael Jones, CEO of Stay Doubted. “This arrangement achieves that and more. The economic power of Los Angeles is a differentiator that is hard to match. We are prepared to use the Stay Doubted network of brand partners and in-house capabilities to establish BLVD as a leader in the NIL era.”
Through its services, BLVD will assist with the development of NIL opportunities for USC student-athletes, including sponsorships, group licensing, promotions and events, and merchandising. All USC student-athletes who voluntarily opt-in to BLVD representation will be equipped with digital “media kits,” which will be available online and showcase the student-athlete’s brand, social media accounts, and key social media metrics.
BLVD will also operate as a student athlete-driven media company to tell the stories of USC’s student-athletes by creating original content that will be published across multiple BLVD media platforms. For added exclusive USC student-athlete content and experiential programming, USC fans will have the opportunity to sign up for membership subscriptions. Various levels of membership will be available, and members will gain exclusive access to NIL-related membership perks from USC student-athletes, such as cameo style appearances, event appearances, autographed memorabilia, and more. Through their independent agreements with BLVD, USC athletes will be compensated for their participation in NIL activities associated with the creation of original content and fulfillment of membership perks. USC student-athletes will also receive revenue generated from any third-party sponsorships associated with BLVD’s original content.
Additionally, through their agreements with BLVD, USC student-athletes will have independent access to other essential NIL resources in the areas of accounting, banking, investing, taxes, and legal. For their own brand enhancement, USC student-athletes will have the opportunity to tap into Let Creators Create, which is a media library and experiential program focused on empowering the next generation of creators. USC student-athletes will get tactical tips, tricks, and tools from the biggest creators.
To support its operations, BLVD will establish an advisory board of influential leaders across various academic, business, and charitable sectors to provide strategic guidance to the agency. Additionally, BLVD will invite USC alumni to become ambassadors to promote BLVD’s activities and give back to current student-athletes.
The third-party NIL agency model originated from the vision of a USC NIL Task Force that was commissioned by President Folt and co-chaired by Bohn and Senior Vice President and General Counsel Beong-Soo Kim. The task force’s efforts were supported by Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Alan Green and included representation from Athletics, Faculty, the Office of Athletic Compliance, the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Government and Community Relations, Student Affairs, University Communications, and Trademarks & Licensing.
USC’s NIL strategic planning and educational consultant, Altius Sports Partners, advised USC on the development of the Stay Doubted agreement. “We are pumped to have been part of such an aggressive, innovative approach from its inception and look forward to seeing USC excel with our continued support and guidance,” said Celine Mangan, Senior Account Executive for Altius. “This is a revolutionary model, and I’m confident others will follow.”
Said USC’s Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and Chief of Staff Brandon Sosna: “From day one, we have strongly held the belief that there is no better place in the country than USC and Los Angeles for student-athletes to be successful in the NIL era . Our marketplace, powerful alumni base, industry-leading guidance from Altius, and summer professional development programming with the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Marshall School of Business, Gould School of Law, and other schools provide a platform that has no equal. When those strengths are paired with Stay Doubted and BLVD, we believe we have the most strategic and sustainable NIL support program in the country for our student-athletes.”
BLVD will officially launch later this summer in advance of the Fall sports season. More information for student-athletes about how to voluntarily opt-in, for fans on how to sign up for membership subscriptions, and for sponsors on how to engage in opportunities with USC student-athletes will be released by BLVD in connection with the launch. The Advisory Board and Ambassadors will also be announced at a later time.
This is certainly a step in the right direction for the USC athletic department, helping athletes navigate these new and confusing NIL waters. From what we were told by a source, this is NOT a collective and this won’t be used to entice prospects directly, only for current student athletes. It does allow for USC football fans to sign up for various levels of membership, where they pay a subscription fee, get perks for that and then the proceeds will go back to the student athletes in the form of NIL opportunities.
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates on the Trojans playing in the NIL space.