With the introduction of name, image and likeness in the summer of 2021, universities and athletes alike were unsure of how the industry would adapt to paying student-athletes.
As we approach the two-year anniversary of the legalization of NIL, it is apparent that collectives have become the leading third-party in organizing the successful outcome of NIL deals. However, with a clearer sense of what is and isn’t appropriate in the NIL space, some collectives have taken a new approach to NIL.
Based on the mission statement of giving back to the college community behind student-athletes, TigerImpact has changed the narrative behind NIL deals.
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“We’re trying to understand what really defines a quality collective,” Bobby Couch, the Executive Director of TigerImpact, said in a recent interview with The NIL Deal. “Is it all about how much money you raise? Or is it about the impact that you’re having and that the student-athletes are having a great experience playing their sport for their respective school while earning money off their name, image and likeness?”
These questions are what caused Clemson alum and TigerImpact Founder, Rich Davies, to explore charitable opportunities through NIL. The former kicker, who played for the program from 1982-1985, was inspired by local community member, Bella Attiso.
Attiso had been diagnosed with cancer and was amazed by the outpouring of help her family received from the Clemson community. In response, she and her husband created the Nutifafa Shelter, a charity dedicated to helping children whose parents are suffering from cancer.
Davies couldn’t comprehend how an organization of this manner wasn’t getting the necessary exposure it needed to continue to flourish and make an impact in the community.
“He felt NIL could be an answer to helping organizations like Nutifafa Shelter become more visible by using the student-athletes platform to amplify the great work that organizations like Nutifafa Shelter were providing,” said Couch. “That was the ‘aha moment’ for TigerImpact to begin.”
Davies, along with a collection of Clemson alumni and leaders in the community, began their journey to integrate charity with the student-athletes competing at Clemson. They applied and received 501c3 status, raised philanthropic funds, and started matching student-athletes with charitable organizations that reflected their ideas.
TigerImpact works very similar to other collectives. Before signing each individual athlete, they run an NIL algorithm to determine a student-athlete’s value. Then, they negotiate the individual requirements of each athlete’s responsibilities for their NIL deal with their charity. However, it differs in its focus on building young adults who are involved in the community and recognize the importance of using their platform to make a difference.
“TigerImpact allows me to engage with my social media followers and get them to really align with what I believe and feel. I’m not only engaging with my followers, but they’re able to now connect with something bigger than just my social media,” said Clemson running back Will Shipley, who through TigerImpact has been able to strengthen his relationship and bring national awareness to Levine Children’s Hospital.
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“That’s what TigerImpact has allowed me to do. Put the word out and get more people to know more about the charities we work with.”
Former Clemson defensive end, KJ Henry, credited TigerImpact for its ability to contract meaningful NIL deals for Tiger student-athletes.
“It’s allowed it to become a space where it’s goal-oriented. They’ve set up those hurdles and checkpoints, where it’s this charitable organization and you get paid this month for a certain amount of posts, appearances and social engagement,” said Henry. “It’s how we as athletes are wired. The structure and timing of TigerImpact couldn’t have come at a better time and place.”
Clemson basketball player, Amari Robinson, shared a similar sentiment.
“TigerImpact makes a huge difference in what we do. As student-athletes there is both the athletic and entertainment side of us, and being able to give back to those around us who give so much to us is really important,” said Robinson. “It shows that we’re more than athletes and who we are on the field. It’s really huge for us to have that aspect of being a student.”
Currently, TigerImpact has 58 student-athletes signed to NIL deals along with identifying over 150 charities to engage with. Their goal is to continue to build their relationship with Clemson and it has hopes of signing all 524 student-athletes at the university and partnering them with a charity that embodies themselves and the community.
“We’re trying to get every sport at Clemson covered throughout TigerImpact. It was really important for us not to be just solely focused on football, basketball and baseball like other collectives. We’re sending the message about being inclusive, being diverse and working within this service environment,” said Couch.
TigerImpact is changing the way collectives operate financially and with their student-athletes.
According to Couch, the collective has been working on building a charity impact report that will use data from the past year to highlight all of the financial and personal success of these NIL partnerships. The TigerImpact team is also working on organizing a symposium for this upcoming summer. The goal: to gather the charities and student-athletes that have made the progression of TigerImpact possible and discuss ways to grow for the future.
“We’re going to sit around and focus on all the great work that’s being done and what we can do next. What are some areas that we can improve upon? Because at the end of the day it’s about serving these charities like Nutifafa Shelter and really having an impact on them. That’s what separates us,” said Couch.
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Name, image and likeness at times hasn’t received the positive headlines needed to demonstrate the impact that NIL can have on a community. Couch and the Board of Directors at TigerImpact hope that their work can shine a light on the good of NIL and be an example for universities across the country.
“We need more of the good that’s going on in this NIL space out there for people to continue to gain confidence that we’re heading in the right direction,” said Couch. “I know that the partnerships made through TigerImpact will have a lifelong impact on student-athletes and in the charities they serve. The job that’s upon us is we’ve got to be able to tell that story publicly. So people understand that this is just not about paying 17-to-24-year-olds for their name, image and likeness. This is about taking this marketplace and doing something extraordinary and life changing and that’s what TigerImpact is all about.”