Ohio State athletics to spend almost $50k on new partnership with Opendorse

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
The Fawcett Center at The Ohio State University photographed on Thursday, July 16, 2020. [Fred Squillante/Dispatch]

Ohio State’s name, image and likeness education for athletes expanded two weeks ago when it announced a partnership with Opendorse, a prominent digital marketing company used by a wide variety of athletic departments across the country.

The agreement will run OSU $49,900 for one year, according to a copy of an order form obtained by The Dispatch through a public-records request. It took effect on Monday and is scheduled to run through June 7, 2022.

The cost includes $25,000 for the "Opendorse Ready" package, as well as add-ons that totaled $35,000. Ohio State received a discount of $10,100 for a first-year offer, reducing its total. It is subject to 5% annual increases if it retains the company under the current terms. 

As part of the deal, an Opendorse representative is to give one social media education session for each of Ohio State’s 35 varsity sports teams.

The discussions are to highlight best practices and tips for social media use, handling negative comments, alerting others and using platforms in a positive and productive fashion.

The company is to make an undetermined number of “mutually agreed upon campus visits" for the education sessions, as outlined in the agreement. The remaining meetings with teams would be completed over Zoom. Additional resources are to be made available to athletes, coaches and staff members that include brand assessments.

Other athletic departments have paid higher sums for Opendorse’s services, ranging into the six-figure amounts for premium-level packages.   

The Lincoln Journal Star reported last year that Nebraska was paying the company $235,500 annually. Opendorse is based in Lincoln, Nebraska, and its founders include Blake Lawrence, a former linebacker for the Cornhuskers. 

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Ahead of potential changes to NIL rules, Ohio State’s athletic compliance office began working with athletes in April.

Athletic director Gene Smith then told The Dispatch they were to review a range of topics that involved social media use, business planning and tax implications with income generated from the use of their NIL.

Much of the education began with managing social media, which has long been a point of discussion but is expected to gain a greater focus amid the potential for influencer deals and other forms of endorsement opportunities.

For those reasons, Smith said he saw a need for athletes to keep their social media accounts well-polished.

“Companies want to align with a certain brand,” Smith said. “They want to align with people or partners who share their values. So if you don't have a clean social media platform, you're going to have a hard time. What you say, what you do, what you display, all those things, companies are going to look at.”

Part of Opendorse’s operation is to assist athletes in creating content on social media to build up a following and enhance their earnings potential.

It remains unclear when the Buckeyes’ athletes will be able to begin monetizing their NIL.

The NCAA has not adopted proposed rules changes related to NIL for the upcoming 2021-22 academic year, though the Division I Council could act at its next meeting scheduled for June 22-23.

Mark Emmert, the president of the college sports governing body, told U.S. Senators on Wednesday at during a Senate Commerce Committee that he expects it will approve the new rules in two weeks.

Ohio is not among the states that have passed NIL laws scheduled to take effect on July 1, though a state senator introduced a bill last month.