MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In response to the NCAA allowing student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements, the WVU football program is trying to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to educating its players.
On Thursday, coach Neal Brown announced a partnership with brand marketing consultant Jeremy Darlow to educate players and develop skills in growing their personal brands.
“Our football players will be learning how to build their own brand from a person who wrote the book on the subject and is an individual who has worked with some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment,” Brown said in a news release. “We’re excited to provide that level of expertise to our players.”
The idea behind the partnership is to give each player the ability to recognize and grow his influence, target and identify his potential audience, and develop strong communication platforms.
WVU is the first Big 12 program to partner with Darlow and the second Power 5 team (Georgia Tech) to do so.
“My mission is to teach athletes how to create a personal brand and reputation that sets them up for life after sports,” he said. “I’m proud to work with West Virginia, which believes in preparing their student-athletes for life after college. Today, more than at any other point in history, athletes have the opportunity to build personal brands that transcend the sports they play. Thanks to the exposure and influence offered by social media, these young men and women can now control their own brand destiny.”
Darlow is a brand marketing consultant, former director of marketing for Adidas football and baseball, adjunct marketing professor and author of “Brands Wins Championships” and “Athletes are Brands Too.”
He has worked with Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, UCLA and Wisconsin. Athletes he’s worked with include baseball players Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa; former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.; soccer player Lionel Messi; and football players Von Miller, Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers.
Much left unanswered
With momentum building for months to allow players to benefit from their name, image and likeness, Brown tried to keep up with it through talks with WVU athletic director Shane Lyons and others within the profession.
Still, there are many questions still unanswered — how will it be regulated and how will it ultimately affect the way college athletics work?
One of the biggest questions is recruiting, and while Brown isn’t sure how everything will play out, he does believe West Virginia could have tantalizing aspects to it.
“I do think there’s some potential benefits here in West Virginia because we don’t have any professional sports competition and we’re the only Power 5 team,” he said last week. “I do think there are some things we can use. I do think there are some things that are marketable — our players are marketable. Our brand is strong. I did notice the branding of the school is going to be not allowed in that, which I do understand. I don’t think it’s going to be a windfall for everybody on our roster or everyone on the basketball team, I don’t see that happening.”
Before this new ruling becomes official, though, Brown hopes certain things are addressed, especially when it comes to what his responsibilities will be.
“You don’t know what the parameters are, and when you get the parameters, how do you monitor that?” he said. “Who’s in charge of monitoring? Is that going to be the head coach’s responsibility? How am I going to monitor it if they have an agent? I understand why we went down this path, I do get it. Again, I think it can be beneficial to some extent. I just don’t know how you manage it.”