adidas unveils groundbreaking NIL program for over 50,000 athletes

NC State is one of four Sweet 16-bound women's teams who will wear warmup shirts in honor of the initiative. (Lance King/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, adidas announced that it is forming an NIL network open to every eligible student-athlete at NCAA Division I universities that have partnerships with the brand.

Over 50,000 students at 109 partner schools and across 23 DI sports will have the opportunity to profit and become a paid affiliate brand ambassador with adidas. It’s the first time a major sports brand has sponsored such an initiative.

The program will launch in four phases, beginning with HBCUs and Power-5 conference partners in the fall and expanding to all schools by April 2023.

It’s the latest phase of adidas’ “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign, which aims to promote accessibility, inclusivity and a more equitable future in sports.

“At adidas, we are committed to creating change through sport and recognize the important role student-athletes play in shaping the future,” said Rupert Campbell, president of adidas North America. “Our groundbreaking NIL program advances our commitments toward building inclusivity in sport and inspires athletes to realize a more equitable world. I can’t wait to see it come to life.”

The program’s release also aligns with the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Longtime adidas partner Candace Parker is among a group of athletes supporting the initiative, including in her upcoming documentary, “Title IX: 37 Words That Changed America,” which will premiere on TBS during the NCAA Men’s Final Four next weekend.

“adidas’ NIL network is an incredible step forward for the growth of women’s sports,” Parker said. “It will have an impact on the future of college athletics and hopefully create a more equal, sustainable landscape where athletes feel supported and invested in as they grow in their college careers. It builds upon adidas’ and my shared ambition to empower the next generation of women in life and sport.”

adidas will also commemorate the anniversary of Title IX at the NCAA Women’s Tournament, with athletes from adidas-affiliated schools wearing “More Is Possible” T-shirts during warmups. The shirts will include a passage from the Title IX legislation on the back. On the women’s side, the group includes Sweet 16-bound teams Louisville, NC State, Indiana and South Dakota.

“There is more we can be doing,” adidas NCAA program lead Jim Murphy told Sports Illustrated. “And this NIL program is just one example of how we will continue to find touchpoints in the marketplace to amplify our athletes and making sure that they are grounded in equitable opportunities as it moves forward within our universes.”