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Why Activism Matters in NIL Deals

  • Sponsorships will be more successful if they take a stand on social issues, according to PwC's latest sports survey.
  • More than 50% of respondents said their companies had social and environmental initiatives as part of their corporate strategy.
Photo: JOE RONDONE, TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT/Design: Alex Brooks

In the NIL era, brands aren’t necessarily looking to partner with athletes just because they’re famous on social media. 

They want athletes who align with their interests and values, multiple experts on name, image and likeness have told FOS, and that athletes should be seeking brands who align with them.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2021 Sports Survey takes this ideological alignment a step further. Sponsorships will be more successful if they take a stand on social issues, the study found.

  • Companies are “​​seeking to incorporate a deeper sense of purpose to resonate with fans’ and public opinion’s growing concerns for environmental issues, healthy living and social equality.” 
  • Consumers are more interested in brands that match their social and political beliefs, and are “increasingly empowered to reconsider their purchasing habits if a brand doesn’t match their values.”
  • More than 50% of respondents said their companies have plans in place related to “social and environmental sustainability” that are “part of their corporate strategy.” 

We’ve already seen plenty of this type of partnership in the pros. 

Nike frequently drops ads suggesting they support various social causes, like women’s empowerment. February’s Super Bowl commercials were flooded with companies touting corporate social responsibility. 

There have been some NIL examples, too. Icon Source created a campaign promoting gender equity in marketing deals. Rutgers basketball player Geo Baker was paid to promote an academic article about college sports reform — in line with his activism about economic justice for NCAA athletes.

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