Episode 24 -We speak with Mick Hamilton Director of Collegiate NIL at Icon Source
Mick talks about his journey to landing his dream job at Icon Source and how the platform is digitizing the Sports Marketing Space and changing the dynamics of how Brands, Agents and Athletes can take advantage of NIL in both college & professional sports.
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This podcast is sponsored by OMI, the company that makes CRM work. And I'm here today with Mick Hamilton, Director of NIL for Icon Source , NIL I know what that means because I somewhat follow collegiate sports or sports in general. Can you tell us what it means? Like why is this important right now? Yeah,Mick Hamilton:
So NIL stands for name, image and likeliness. And obviously the pro sides always had that! You're able to get sponsorships or endorsement deals or, you know, being on a commercial. But in college sports , you were never allowed making any dollars. You know, alumni can never come and buy you a hamburger at the store on campus that was an NCAA violation. So I think it's around 120 years maybe that the NCAAs existed. That has been illegal. And as of July 1st, 2021, it turned into being legal thanks to a few states that pressure the NCAA. And they passed some state laws to three days before July 1st when I think Florida and Georgia and a few other states were gonna go legal, the NCAA came out and said, Hey, everybody's allowed making NIL now. So, hey, every college athlete can make money off of sponsorship, an endorsement if a business around the corner wants you to make a TikTok forum for $500, you can do that and make that money. So , that's what NILstands for now in college sports.Play the King:
And so, okay , this may be a really basic question, but the difference between an image and a likeness, the image would be like, okay, a photo of a football player on a billboard, right? But the likeness would be like an adaptation of that person in like a video game environment kind of thing. Is that, is that sort of how to think about the difference between those two?Mick Hamilton:
In a sense, yeah. So in a sense, like the image, yeah, you nailed it. Using it for, you know, a billboard or a social media post, promote the business. The likeliness is really, you know, the likeliness of the people following or, you know, the hardcore fans around campus who know who this athlete is. And so these athletes have a likeness now that they can capitalize on. And because of their name, they're able to make dollars for themselves, for their families, and be able to use it as they please now .Play the King:
Gotcha. So tell me how you came into this position. I'm always curious to hear how people get where they're, and I know you moved , you were in Cincinnati, you moved to Atlanta. Take us through like how do you arrive at a job like this?Mick Hamilton:
Yeah, I, I didn't see it coming. So , you know, I started from Cincinnati. I went to a school called Muller High School. It's an all boys Catholic school. Played different sports. I've always loved sports growing up. So I played football and soccer. It's mainly soccer. And I picked up rugby and football actually , my last two years at Muller. I decided to go to another school, i t's called a O hio University. And, a fter that i t wasn't the right fit. So I came back and my rugby coach at the time in high school w as actually the director of player personnel a t Cincinnati. His name's Doug F eld, he's actually currently the assistant head coach for the Bengals i n Z ach Taylor. From there it was Luke Fickles first year and it was Marcus Freeman's first year as a true standalone defensive coordinator in college football Coach Fickles now at Wisconsin. Coach Freeman is now the head coach at Notre Dame and really worked as a student assistant for him , coach Freeman and eventually , was lucky enough to surround myself with so many successful and determined people where within my, I think third year in , we were able to start recruiting at Cincinnati and there was something called the Nasty Boys, and it was from the 1990 Reds Relief pitchers. The Nasty Boys were myself, Max Steiner , who is now officially the director of player Personnel at Wisconsin. Caleb Davis, who is now a Notre Dame analyst. Chad Bowen , director of recruiting at Notre Dame. And Pat Lambert who is now the director of recruiting at Wisconsin. And we're able to break a decent amount of records there and we're just really passionate and hardworking. And when that ended up happening, coach Freeman went to Notre Dame and I had to really make a decision because my team kind of split apart. And this opportunity at Icon Source came through and I actually just solely asked just for an internship for six months for, for free. I was kind of bluffing and couldn't really afford it. And luckily enough, two weeks in, I got a full-time opportunity, so packed my bags up, put the degree to the side and stumbled into Icon Source where this was prior to the legalization of NIL and once NIL day one happened, I got to be a part of the first ever deal in NIL history , i n New York City Times Square with, t hese girls called t he Cavender Twins and, a nd B oost M obile alongside a s I actually set up the first e ver HBCU deal at 12:01 AM with a Jackson State athlete a nd a black o wned business b ased o ut o f Cincinnati actually. And that was just an awesome opportunity and from there we've really taken off and I k ind of pinched myself because t ime's flown by now I t hink we're almost about to encompass two years i n i nto NIL, which is crazy.Play the King:
<laugh> is , it's so funny. Coming from soccer background into, you know, in now you're just sort of really in mesh in the world of college football. Is football sort of the, the leading , you know, I guess what is the hierarchy in terms of just like most coveted, you know, sports athletes , from that you see from brands?Mick Hamilton:
Yeah, that's a really good question because I think if you asked anybody who was really as into it or at least follows in on Twitter and social media, they would say the starting quarterback would make the most amount of dollars at all these schools. They're the top dog. We're , the star basketball player at a big school like Kansas or Kentucky. Obviously those are still big time athletes who are making a lot of money, but really the people who are making the most, and I think in my own opinion in the future, are gonna be the content creator esque athletes, right? Maybe the people that you haven't paid too much attention to, but they have a massive following on social media because what we've learned is that those athletes, especially female athletes, have way more engagement rates. They have those true followers and then the football players and on the other hand have a lot of those recruiting followers who follow 'em, the fans, but they're not as engaged in a sense. They're really just there for support, show the love that they, you know, they follow 'em, they're like their pictures. So really it's interesting, the hierarchy is really those, those big time athletes alongside the content creators that the everyday sports fan might not even know of. But you know, the younger kids and the kids growing up and wanting to find those heroes, they're big fans and those are their superstars in their eyes. So it's kind of two-way factor, but both sides are great and it's a little bit different than most people, I guess. See.Play the King:
Yeah, that's interesting. I remember seeing a story in the New York Times a couple weeks ago about that. I think she's a gymnast at LSU and they were talking about just this new Okay, I , yeah, like you said, I was expecting, you know, the quarterback, whatever, you know, that's sort of the traditional, I guess, money maker . Um, okay, cool. And now I want to hear about your platform , Icon Source, right? It's super interesting because when I go onto the site, the law I think is just a little different in every state. And so you actually have this really useful breakdown of like <laugh> , you know, and like, what is possible, how do you navigate this in your state? And I imagine this is helpful not just for, you know, the brands that are coming and wanting to use Icon Source , but also, you know, the athletes who are using it. It's a , I mean, it's a two-way marketplace, right? So you have both sides who are, who are wanting to participate and it's just seems really, really complicated, but you guys do a great job of breaking it down.Mick Hamilton:
Yeah, so I , we started actually on the pro side four years ago, our CEO Chase Garrett, he was running , global Red Bull Sports Marketing , and really wanted to digitize the sports marketing space. So other than the Red Bulls, the Gatorades, the Nikes of the world, he wanted everybody to have the opportunity to be able to jump into sports marketing. So, you know, we offered template contracts, direct contact to either the athlete or the agent, whoever's running their account. The social demographics of, you know, who's following somebody a lot of brand love saying, Hey, you know, if we're gonna work with this athlete, you know, do they have the right followers for where we're wanting to target our marketing campaigns at , alongside the payment processing and the tax reporting that college athletes are learning about. But yeah, it's super interesting just because, kinda like what I said before, Florida really, the state of Florida passed a law and so did California and a few others to really press the NCAA to make a decision really fast. So when that happened, it kind of opened up the gates. And NCAA has lost a lot of control where every state has a different NIL law and different policies and the more confusing part of it , George is not just the state, but you know, for example, Ohio State has completely different laws in Cincinnati and then they have completely different laws than the University of Dayton and then the Ohio University. And so they all have these different policies just because of where the NCAA really placed all these goals in the situation everybody's in currently. So that's where a lot of brands find a lot of success. One of , knowing we have a team that we can help them navigate the right rules, make sure they're not using marks and logos according to the school policies or laws or, you know, maybe some schools want their athletes to disclose as in, Hey, I got a deal, you'll need to know about it . So it's not illegal. These are a lot of things that our team works with and it's really interesting too because, you know , we're marketing a lot to college athletes. I think within the first year, maybe a little bit less, and we really stopped because a lot of athletes started doing deals and then they're , they probably went and told their ath their friends in the , in the locker room or, or their friends, they went to high school with, Hey, you need to sign up on Icon Source because it's a trusted place, everything's done right. Um, and so that's really like , it's kind of become a safe haven for brands, athletes and even their agents to really reel in deals and especially for the agent side, keep their clients happy.Play the King:
So if you could just really briefly from an agency point of view or you know, an advertiser point of view, how does it work? What do you , what do you do you come in, sign up and what happens then?Mick Hamilton:
Yeah, so you can sign up and , and there's different plans. So our lowest one's the bronze plan, it's $500 a month, there's a transaction fee on top around 15% and you have access to the site. So a big thing that we really preach is that you have to follow the rules as a athlete agent to even just be seen on the platform. So we really want those true users on our platforms so the brands can reach out. So they're able to do that. They're also able to, you know, work off subscription plans where they can work with their customer success management team and they're able to help really use their expertise match with the right and authentic athletes. But in general, let's say you just did the bronze plan , you're on your own, you're able to go in there, scroll through thousands and thousands of athletes on the college and the pro sides filter so you can find the right and authentic brand . So, you know , maybe you're a health and wellness company and you're based outta Georgia. You could filter out of Georgia, you could say college pro type in health and wellness. You can even go down from male to female and then you can find those right athletes that might make it fit and , and work perfect for your company. So from there you would send them a deal through our templated contracts, we ask you the same questions for you basically just to fill in , um, numerically of what a sports market at Nike or Gatorade would ask you, if that makes sense. So from there you're able to send a deal directly to the athlete or the agents . The only time you're able to contact them, I always like to say, when there's money on the table and from there you're able to actually message back and forth, you're able to negotiate and if anything needs to get changed in the contract, it takes about five seconds for that to be changed. And once the both of the parties find, you know, an agreement, they're able to sign it digitally through our platform. And you're off to the races from there. Once actually, the athlete does what's asked , so maybe it's a social media post, they're actually supposed to click pay now from then they already have their payment information hand their tax reporting information in the brand can see it on their side go, Hey, they followed all the rules, this was in the contract, everything's stated perfectly, and the money's actually sitting in escrow. When they click payout, the funds get released to the other party and they're onto the next deal in a sense. So it's really, really cool. It's really changed the platform since I've started and it's gotten more detailed , more high tech in a sense. Um, and we've really gotta get a lot of referrals from our clients of, Hey, what, what can we fix? What, what do you need? Since you're the ones who are really using this that we might not be able to see. And that's where we've seen the best success from our side.Play the King:
Now, from the athlete's point of view, you know, I'm sure you have figures on like , oh, this many, you know, this number of dollars went to college athletes in 2021, you know, whatever it was in 2022. I guess I'm more interested in anecdotally, do you have any, any stories or any anecdotes just about how this has changed, you know, a college athlete's life or someone, someone's life, life, just being able to make a little more, you know, a little money on the side, not not having to necessarily get a job that's gonna take 'em away from their studies or their training. I don't know , just anything come to mind there?Mick Hamilton:
Yeah, no, absolutely. And really, I was explaining this Rowan , NIL took place, got a lot of people saying, well, they're already, you know, making enough money from, you know, see it cost of attendance checks, which is completely untrue. And really, I think my angle and what I do is, I came from a coaching background. I was around the athletes. I actually lived with a lot of the football players because they're my age and was around them and you know, you'd see kids take their COA checks and send it back to mom to keep the lights on for their siblings and it was heartbreaking. And that's just the situation they're in now. And so with NILthey're able to make a little bit more dollars off of , you know, what they do best. You know, especially in football, you're putting your body on the line every single day and you know, God forbid one kid can change your life. So, you know, I've talked to a few kids who I just wanted to check in on 'em , I've gotta build a great relationships. I know they're doing tons of deals on our platform, they're super active and, you know , had one athlete and they'll keep their name out of it just for their own privacy sake. But, you know, said, Hey man, this, this has been amazing for me. I don't tell a lot of people, a lot of people don't know, but I actually have a son at home and you know, my mom gets to take care of him just because I've been , I'm so busy with my, you know, my sports and trying to get to the next level where I take my money and I get to send mom back diaper money and food money and help take care of my child because she's n ot, you know, she's obviously has to work on her own too. There's stuff like that. You know, there's another interesting status, actually our top three earners on Icon Source is female athletes. A lot of people always think the males are going to make a lot of the money and female athletes have made so many dollars. There's one girl named Renia Jones and she's made thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars just on Icon Source because of her personality and kind of really what she shows in her brand and you know, how people can relate to it. So it's really, really cool seeing these kind of scenarios play and getting to meet a lot of athletes who, you know, come from different environments or different standpoints where , you know, they're not just on their own, they gotta help out other people and their family and this just creates an opportunity, which is just so cool to be a part of,Play the King:
You know. Can we stay with her for a minute? You mentioned a woman who's been successful. Yeah . What let's, let's like zero in on that. What does that look like? What kind of brands are finding her? How , you know how is that like Yeah, tell me the story of of of how she's been successful on this platform.Mick Hamilton:
Yeah, so she actually started off as a first ever female in the state of Florida to do an NIL deal. We gotta put it together with a company called Miller Technologies. So it's actually a printing company. So a lot of people are like, why are they doing NIL deals? Well, you know, unfortunately as CEO they lost some , he lost his son in a drowning accident. So we're very passionate about, you know, working with YMCA, helping out inner city communities. So Renia on the first day I was able to sign deal with them, got to go to a YMCA , hang out with kids, you know, k ind o f have a mini p ress conference and really be, be along with t he ride. And from there, you know, other brands s aw i t and she actually got to do a , a deal with a bank at UCF. She's a star track runner at UCF and it's called Addition Financials. So she's gotta shoot Olympic kind of commercials on tv. She's gotta do financial literacy with the executives of the bank, which is unreal. I wish I could have had that, still wish I can have that. Um , podcasts, different things like that. So there's so many creative ways that businesses can get involved and they can get involved in solely just promoting their own company or they can get involved in working with another outside nonprofit and kind of do a collaboration with, you know, a an athlete and , and help out not just their company, but you know, even the community around them.Play the King:
That's great. I love that. What would you say to someone who's maybe, you know, wants to do their toe in the water, you know, coming into maybe coming into college, how do you get started here? What, what, what are the things to look out for ? What are the things to maybe to avoid? How do you do this successfully?Mick Hamilton:
You know, I think one, because this is, this is a big topic just because my background recruiting and seeing how it's kind of going with NIL, it's obviously completely changed the way College F orces is done now. I think one focus on your craft < laugh> still focus on your sport. You know, the NIL deals will come at t he end of the day, they won't come if you can't produce once you get to that school because a lot of athletes forget you could h ave been the man or the female at your school i n high school, but once you get to the next level, it's different, right? And so don't chase the NIL dollars, find somewhere where they can develop you, w here they can turn you into the athlete, where you can go make the real dollars at the next level. But I'd say from high school, start posting alot. Understand, you know, what are your values? What is your brand? You know, what are , what's all about you? You know, why would, why do people follow you? Post that kind of stuff and stay away obviously, especially in high school, any pictures where you kind of scratch your head and say, is this a good look on me? Um , because brands really do look at that, you'd be surprised, you know, I'd go on a Sprouts farmer's market, we wanted to do 50 deals with female athletes and we gave them around 150 names and we went , dropped down back down to like 20 because it said, no, no, no, there was something we didn't like. There was a caption we didn't like. It was all these things. So it's really putting yourself up, representing yourself as a professional , um, because you're not obviously representing just your team now, yourself and your family, but it can be a brand. So I think one, focus on your craft, focus on all that kind of stuff on the side. Figure out what you like, post constantly about it. Don't care what people, might make fun of you for constantly posting because at the end of the day, you're gonna be the one who makes most of the dollars and the people who don't want to post, they're shy , they're too good for it. Just because they're a football player or a good athlete doesn't mean they're gonna get a lot of money in NIL because they don't necessarily bring that value back to the brand.Play the King:
Gotcha. That's interesting. Really. That's good advice. All right . We talked about how agents, you know, agencies, agents can get involved. I guess when I say agency, I think of like an advertising agency. I guess you have agents like who are actually like actual agents of these athletes you who are helping out, right ?Mick Hamilton:
We work with both .Play the King:
Yeah . What would you leave us with? We've talked about how each of these different entities can sort of get involved. I don't really see a downside to doing so what else would you say here just to, to leave us with?Mick Hamilton:
Yeah, I think, you know, one, I think a lot of brands are trying to figure out how to do this and even marketing agencies where they have a few people who, you know they know somebody at CAA and they go to CAS and they go, Hey, here's all of our athletes that'll work. Let's make it work. And the big thing is that all their athletes might not be perfect. They might have one athlete, Rock Nation might have one athlete, you know, Rosenhaus might have one athlete WME might have another perfect athlete. Instead of just going to one person who's trying to get all their athletes paid with the one brand, why not work with professionals in a sense, especially with us, you know, where we work with the tons of marketing agencies and we work with, we have 600 plus sports agents who utilize our platform that is crazy. So we can go and say, Hey, you know, they might have the perfect athlete, but maybe that isn't necessarily the right one too. Because there's somebody over here that can make sense. Really, at the end of the day, our goal at Icon Source is to amplify these campaigns, make sure the brands are happy and they have the resources to be able to do marketing deals and not be limited to it. And that's our bread and butter. That's what we're passionate about, that's what we do. And we're really, you know, we're not in it for the NIL game. We started on the pro side . We're really in it to digitize the entire sports marketing space. And really, I think it'd be cool seeing everybody, you know, even a local kid in South Georgia, he has his own, you know, supporting a local business. He grew up going to that kind of stuff where those brands now have the capabilities to work with professionals, use a platform with the resources and technology to help you succeed and reach those goals. Because this isn't easy and NIL is so young, it is not easy. And a lot of brands come to us after they got really burnt and we have everything checked off, all the boxes, and this is what we do. So,Play the King:
Love it. It's been really a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you for your passion for this is really comes through knowledge too . Thank you . So thanks for yeah, thanks for spending time with me and wish you the best of luck.Mick Hamilton:
Yeah, thanks George. This was awesome. I really appreciate it. And looking forward to talking to y'all after.Play the King:
And, where can someone's listening to this and wants to get involved with if they're interested, where can they go to learn more and sign up? I know it's free for athletes, so there's no reason not to , where do they go?Mick Hamilton:
Yeah, it's an absolute no-brainer for athletes. They can go sign up on the app, just type in Icon Source on the app store, either on Google Play or Apple store. And it's completely free. We don't take a single penny from the college athlete . And on the brand side, just go to iconsource .com , click sign up . You'll see brand plus marketing, you can create an account. From there you can check it out, you can pick a plan. If not, you can reach out to our team and we can have a further discussion, see if this makes sense, see what your goals are and see if we can accomplish them. So we're really passionate. Our group of people, you know, the college athletes are excited to get onto our platform and we just love bringing value to everybody. So feel free to reach out to us.