How Notre Dame football players and parents are navigating NIL possibilities
In a little more than a month, the name, image and likeness market for Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton has been plenty busy.
The All-American and likely first-round NFL Draft pick has released his own line of merchandise with shirts, hoodies and hats with his KH14 logo. He’s made himself available to play video games with fans on YOKE and record video messages for fans through Cameo.
Hamilton, a junior, became the first college athlete to sign a sponsorship with Rhoback, an activewear brand that specializes in golf apparel. Hamilton and his three roommates and fellow teammates — cornerback Cam Hart, safety KJ Wallace and wide receiver Conor Ratigan — launched a podcast, “Inside The Garage,” as part of The Volume, a network founded by Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd and co-produced by iHeartMedia.
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Hamilton even hosted a football training session for 10 youth athletes on July 27.
Hamilton worked through all those deals without signing with a marketing agency. Instead, Hamilton’s family has handled all the requests that have come his way. They first set up an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and had Hamilton put it in his Twitter and Instagram bios. His mother, Jackie, and older brother, Tyler, constantly monitor the email inbox.
“We had no expectations,” Jackie said. “It’s the first time at the rodeo for everybody, right? I swear, the inbox has been inundated with inquiries from various different companies and products.”
Fortunately, the Hamiltons have marketing connections. Jackie works as the human resources manager for Shared Vision Marketing in Atlanta. Tyler works in business development for Athletes First Partners, a sports marketing agency tied to Athletes First, a full-service agency that represents NFL players, coaches and executives. Tyler, who played basketball in college, received a Master of Business Administration at William & Mary following graduation from the University of Pennsylvania.
“Being the player that he is, there are a lot of opportunities that we’ve been presented,” Tyler said. “He’s one of those laid-back guys. He’s not going to try to be in every ad or anything like that. We’re trying to select a few things that we feel that he honestly connects with and would want to back. So we’re able to keep it simple.”
Tyler came up with the concept for Kyle’s KH14 logo last year while he was bored during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is something we’ve spoken about, Kyle and I, for a couple years now,” Tyler said. “Being able to work together on something like this and keep it in the family. My dad likes to say he wants to go the LeBron (James) model. That’s right up Kyle’s wheelhouse, because he’s the biggest LeBron fan I know.
“We sort of keep it all with people that are close and that we trust. Then get help from other individuals when we can keep the core group together to help everybody lift Kyle up as much as we can.”
Their father, Derrek, knows the business from his career as a professional basketball player overseas for more than a decade and as a trainer of pro athletes. He was confident that they were prepared for what was coming this way.
But he’s been in agreement with Kyle that the NIL deals can’t distract from his development as a football player. The family can assist in making sure he’s not overloaded when the season starts. Kyle’s main focus can’t be on NIL.
“We have a text message that’s called Team Ham where we discuss everything as a family,” Derrek said. “Football is why he’s there, and football is why he’s getting this, so with me being a coach, he’ll never have to worry about that.”
The Hamiltons plan to continue to operate without an agency, Jackie said, unless somebody makes an offer they can’t refuse.
Finding an agency to help
Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams signed with Rosenhaus Sports after speaking with several different agencies. He opted to go with the agency started by famous agent Drew Rosenhaus in part because the agency could help Williams manage his time.
“We were just looking for somebody who was on the same page as we were,” said Williams’ mother, Taryn. “Someone who was going to go out, look for opportunities, set them all up and help as much as they can to take that grunt work off of Kyren.”
At the end of last season, in which Williams became a star in Notre Dame’s offense as a sophomore, Taryn started to research what would be required to prepare for future NIL opportunities. She consulted with fellow parents of players at Notre Dame, agencies, and friends with business and legal backgrounds to inform how they should manage everything.
Taryn, who works as an IT manager, spent virtually all her spare time for three weeks sorting through all the details including setting up an LLC in Kyren’s name. She was diligent in making sure they were doing everything correctly to avoid having to spend more time on it in the future.
Taryn estimated she's now spending 10-15 hours a week helping her son with NIL opportunities.
“The marketing agent and I work together closely to determine if there’s deals that he would be interested in or not interested in,” Taryn said. “(Kyren) provided a list of items that he had interest in as well. Then we kind of just go from there.”
Kyren hasn’t announced any deals publicly yet, but it's only a matter of time until that changes. One of those deals will include merchandise with his own logo. He’s interested in finding partnerships with companies that can improve his lifestyle and make things easier for him as an athlete such as a meal-delivery service or a hydration product.
Like Hamilton, Williams set up an email to field inquires and listed it in his Twitter and Instagram bios: KyrenWilliamsNIL@gmail.com.
Even with the prospect of new income, Taryn said, Kyren remains frugal. Finding a good financial advisor remains one of their priorities. Recently, Kyren called Taryn after a hard workout asking if he should buy a nice pair of shoes.
“I’m like, ‘Kyren, you work harder than anybody I know. If you want those shoes, buy the shoes,’” Taryn said. “It’s just little things like that now he can do for himself that he wasn’t able to do before. Maybe some of the other kids had been able to do it, so it kind of makes him feel included.”
Kyren even splurged to buy his younger sister a pair of Tory Burch sandals that he knew she wanted but couldn’t afford.
“He was so excited to be able to go out and get those for her and surprise her,” Taryn said. “It’s one of those name-brand items that we would have never bought her, but he was able to bless her with that. Those are the things that excite Kyren. Kyren wants to be able to help take care of things.”
Using NIL to elevate personal brands
Jayson and Justin Ademilola are still waiting for their breakout seasons as Notre Dame defensive linemen. The senior twins have been rotational players for the Irish and shown flashes of potential that remains to be reached.
But that hasn’t prevented them from taking advantage of the NIL market. Two days after announcing they had signed with Vayner Sports last month, the Ademilola twins promoted Six Star Pro Nutrition on their Instagram accounts.
The twins signed with Vayner Sports to help with marketing in part because they had previously connected with co-founders Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk. The Vaynerchuks have ties to New Jersey, where the Ademilolas grew up.
Their father, Ade, hopes any NIL deals his sons make will help shine a light on their potential.
“Once the NIL was approved, we were going to use it as a platform to enhance their brand,” Ade said. “So when they start making more plays on the field, people know about it.”
That means the NIL objectives for the Ademilolas extend beyond a money-making venture.
“Our goal is to partner with brands and platforms that are well-known, bring value to the community and have a positive story to tell,” Ade said. “That aligns with who we are as a family and what we do as a family.”
Ade, who builds voice and data networks to enhance connectivity for companies, has put his family in a position where the financial gains don’t have to come first.
“We have a saying in my household that we do the work and the reward will come,” Ade said. “It’s not the money. The twins don’t need NIL money to do anything, because God has blessed our family. But the goal is for them to partner with brands that will enhance their image once they start making production on the field.”
Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.