If you just woke up from the theoretical coma you fell into ten years ago and logged onto that fun new app Instagram on your iPhone 4 and saw this post, you might have some questions. Hell, even more plugged-in followers of the sport might not fully understand the implications.
First off, this is not a professional signing announcement.
The NIL (name, image, likeness) rules have changed the game, but the world of running hasn’t been greatly impacted just yet. Sprint and social media star Matthew Boling is perhaps the best track & field example of a marketable, young, still-NCAA-competing athlete dipping their hands into the NIL pot. He has had partnerships with Merrell, Philips Norelco, and Dunkin. But without the ability to compete with these companies’ logos on his jersey, these are likely smaller deals compared to the eventual payout he could theoretically receive upon graduating.
To get an idea of what these sorts of contracts might look like, Emily Cole of Duke, who has 102k followers on Instagram and 173k on TikTok, lists $5,000 as her minimum on opendorse.
Enter Adidas. Unlike in other instances, Katelyn Tuohy can rep Adidas while she wins national titles. In fact, she already did when she crossed the finish line at the NCAA Championships, since NC State is an Adidas school. Adidas shoring up their commitment to Tuohy appears to be a win-win. Tuohy was already valuable to Adidas, and this deal will likely ensure she remains in a three-striped uniform for as long as possible. And she’s now getting paid for the exposure she brings to the brand and validation she brings to its shoes and spikes.
This move could have broad implications for how the sports’ top young stars navigate their college decisions, as well as their going-pro decisions.
It will likely be viewed as a positive by most educators and parents that high school studs will no longer have to make the difficult choice to take a lucrative shoe contract or enter the NCAA. Now they can do both! Not to mention, for these athletes being a part of a college team can be a really wonderful and fun experience that lends itself to long-term athletic development!
But ask yourself, if you were among the upper echelon of teenage track prodigies, where would you commit: a Nike-sponsored school or an Adidas one? Although Nike has started sponsoring individual basketball players on Nike teams, they may have to start doing something similar with track teams soon, if Nike-sponsored teams want to remain competitive in recruiting.
And for the shoe companies who don’t currently have partnerships with college teams… it might be time to get one! It isn’t too far fetched to imagine a world in which every All-American talent is graduating college already under contract. The reality is that it all makes sense. Younger athletes in the sport have always received more attention and are more influential to a more devoted following. They were always “worth” more, but now there are checks to validate it.
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