With Duke and Kentucky set to tip off tonight, I’m reminded of the NCAA’s incredibly unfair policy when it comes to athlete compensation. Not only are college basketball players denied compensation from their universities, they are also not allowed to make money off of their likeness. This means that college basketball players, like Duke freshman phenom Zion Williamson for example, cannot sell autographed jerseys or appear in any advertisements. The NCAA claims that this policy helps to preserve the integrity of college athletics, but that assertion is dubious at best.
Regardless of the NCAA’s claims, their policy preventing college basketball players from profiting off of their likeness represents a major missed opportunity for marketers. Duke’s Zion Williamson, with his insane high school dunk videos, made a name for himself on the national stage before he even started his college basketball career. Now he’s playing for Duke, one of the most popular (and infamous) teams in the sport. A brand could successfully capture the attention of the younger male demographic by hiring Zion as a spokesman. However, thanks to the NCAA’s wrongheaded policy, Zion cannot make any paid endorsements until he is in the pros.