One of the most influential companies in the digital age is continuing to invest in the college athlete name, image, and likeness space.
On Wednesday, Meta announced its second iteration of an NIL education program — called “NIL Empower 2.0” — aimed at helping women’s sports athletes get the most out of their Facebook and Instagram accounts and develop post-college careers.
“If you look at NIL compensation and activities overall, it’s clear that social media is here to stay,” Becca Greenwell Wathen, Meta’s Strategic Partner Manager of Student-Athletes and Sports Creators, told Front Office Sports. “We have a commitment to serve these athletes and help them be as successful as possible.”
The company created an open application, and received interest from more than 500 athletes. “We wanted to work with athletes that had a strong history of using our products…or at least ambition to learn how to use our products,” Wathen said. Diversity of sports, conferences, and school size was also key.
The result: a class of athletes from multiple conferences and schools who will have access to education sessions, one-on-one mentorship, career coaching, and deals with brands that Meta has enlisted.
“It would’ve been really easy for Meta to take 30 Power 5 quarterbacks,” Oglethorpe volleyball player Laney Higgins told FOS. “But instead, they had a vision for empowering 30 female student-athletes.”
While Meta will not be compensating athletes directly, the participating brands will sign traditional deals with athletes.
“The whole goal of the program is to help empower female athletes to maximize NIL opportunities and prepare for life after sports,” Wathen, a former Duke basketball player herself, said.
With the program, Meta is also looking to tackle a major issue in the early NIL era. In many cases, athletes have said that NIL education is severely lacking, and the programs that exist aren’t engaging, fun, or accessible, Wathen said.
Francesca Belibi, a Stanford basketball player, told FOS that many athletes still don’t understand how they can use NIL to their advantage. Even as a player on a marquee team in a popular sport, she initially didn’t realize that she could profit off NIL, and use it to her advantage.
For many, “NIL feels a little bit unattainable,” she said. But “there’s something in the NIL space for everybody.”
When her playing days are over, Belibi plans to become a pediatrician. “There’s a lot I can do as a potential pediatrician to help impact and inspire these kids,” she said. “How can I do that with a platform on a grander scale?”
The program is flexible, too — a seemingly small detail that could make a major impact for athletes who are already juggling school, sports, and college life.
Higgins told FOS that Meta asked her for her class schedule, and is being flexible with timing. “I really look forward to pouring my heart and soul into it,” she said.