Michigan State launches 'EverGreen' program to prepare for name, image, likeness era

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Michigan State University has developed its own program to help its student-athletes capitalize on marketing opportunities amid progressing Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) legislation in several states, including Michigan, the school announced Thursday.

Michigan State has created what it's calling "EverGreen" — as in, forever green (and white) — which will aid student-athletes in building their brand and maximizing their earning potential once NIL officially takes hold across college athletics.

Michigan State is the latest school to launch an NIL program that will assist student-athletes with personal branding.

"Our goal is to provide our student-athletes the tools for success — on the field of competition, inside the classroom and beyond MSU," Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman said in a statement announcing the initiative. "Name, image and likeness legislation will offer new opportunities for our student-athletes and EverGreen will prepare and position them for these changes.

"As we looked at designing our NIL program, we recognized that not only did we have a responsibility to help student-athletes build their brand, but it was also imperative that we provide the education and training so they can capitalize on these opportunities while also navigating this new landscape."

In developing the program, Michigan State partnered with experts in branding, student-athlete development and financial education, including INFLCR, Anomaly Sports Group and TeamAltemus.

INFLCR, a Birmingham, Alabama-based firm founded in 2017, specializes in marketing athletes, and for Michigan State students, it will provide social-media strategies as well as evaluating the worth of their channels on social media. INFLCR also specializes in compliance issues.

"Once a Spartan, always a Spartan," INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale said in a statement. "This community will come together, not just with current student-athletes, but also with alums, and a lot of opportunities will gravitate towards Michigan State student-athletes to be able to monetize their NIL and do it safely. We couldn't be more excited to launch this partnership together with Michigan State."

The NCAA reportedly is looking to adopt a simpler NIL model ahead of July 1, when several states’ NIL laws kick in. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed NIL legislation last December, set to kick in Dec. 31, 2022.

This NCAA model, which would balance the playing field for athletes in states that don't have NIL laws, would be in place until Congress can pass a bill that would cover all Division I schools. The NCAA Board of Directors was schedule to meet Thursday to continue discussing the model.

Until NIL legislation, student-athletes could only be compensated in tuition, room and board, and other expenses associated with traveling for competition.

Several schools are rolling out plans to aid their student-athletes in ways to best monetize their brand, including Eastern Michigan, which partnered earlier this month with marketing consultant Jeremy Darlow.

A former adidas executive, Darlow has worked on branding with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Lionel Messi, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Snoop Dogg and Kanye West.

Eastern Michigan is the fourth Mid-American Conference school to partner with Darlow. Eastern Michigan student-athletes will graduate from his course — The DARLOW Rules by Opendorse — and form their personal brand-marketing plan, receiving a certificate upon completion.

"This just further shows our unwavering focus and commitment to our student-athletes, as we continue to build champions in the classroom, in the community, and in competition," Eastern Michigan athletic director Scott Wetherbee said in a statement earlier this month. "Jeremy is an expert in the sports marketing field, and his expertise on brand building will benefit them now and well into their professional careers."

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Angelique S. Chengelis contributed

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984