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A Look at Adidas’ New Equality-Driven NIL Network

The program will be available to the more than 50,000 student-athletes playing for adidas-affiliated schools.

One of the big questions at the onset of the NIL era was how apparel brands, particularly ones that sponsor schools’ athletic programs, would fit into the picture. Well, adidas has its answer.

The company, which outfits 109 Division I universities, has announced an NIL program that will be available to every eligible student-athlete at each of its D-I schools. That means every sport, men’s or women’s.

By adidas’ count, that’s 50,000 athletes across 23 sports, pending eligibility based on university- and state-specific NIL policies.

Beginning in the fall when rollout begins at Power 5 schools and HBCUs, athletes will have a chance to become paid affiliate brand ambassadors for adidas. It is expected to be available to all eligible athletes by April 2023.

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“At adidas, we are committed to creating change through sport and recognize the important role student athletes play in shaping the future,” Rupert Campbell, president of adidas North America, said in a release. “Our  groundbreaking NIL program advances our commitments toward building inclusivity in sport and inspires athletes to realize a more equitable world. I can’t wait to see it come to life.” 

The announcement comes in the middle of the women’s and men’s NCAA Tournaments — the first edition of March Madness since last year’s controversy around gender equity in sport. A program like this, which is available to athletes of all backgrounds at adidas schools, is aimed at helping level the playing field.

“adidas’ NIL network is an incredible step forward for the growth of women’s sports,” two-time WNBA champion and adidas partner Candace  Parker added in the release. “It will have an impact on the future of college athletics and hopefully create a  more equal, sustainable landscape where athletes feel supported and invested in as they grow in their college careers. It builds upon adidas’ and my shared ambition to empower the next generation of women  in life and sport.”

And to reinforce adidas’ equity efforts, it will also outfit each of its men’s and women’s schools participating in the Sweet 16 with “More is Possible” warmup shirts. On the back, each one will feature the following 37 words, directly from Title IX:

Photo via adidas

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

This is not the first time that an apparel company has offered an NIL deal to athletes at an affiliated school, though it’s the first time adidas has done this. Back in December, Nike signed UCLA soccer player Reilyn Turner to a deal, making the sophomore the first-ever Swoosh-endorsed student-athlete.

About The Author
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg is an editor and writer at Boardroom. He came to the brand in 2021 with a decade of experience in sports journalism, primarily covering college basketball at SB Nation as a writer, reporter, and blog manager. In a previous life, he worked as a social media strategist and copywriter, handling accounts ranging from sports retail to luxury hotels and financial technology. Though he has mastered the subtweet, he kindly requests you @ him next time.