Ohio State launches corporate ambassador program for NIL opportunities

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State is expanding its name, image and likeness offerings.

The athletic department announced Thursday that it has launched a program aimed at providing opportunities for athletes to serve as brand ambassadors for companies around Columbus.

Carey Hoyt, a senior associate athletic director who oversees NIL administration, said the corporate ambassador program was modeled after an initiative that arranges internships for athletes through partnerships with about 60 local businesses.  

A new Ohio State effort hopes to connect OSU athletes with businesses that would pay these athletes to be their brand ambassadors.

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Responsibilities for participating athletes would include promotional work on behalf of a company such as posting on social media or making public appearances.

Though Ohio State is facilitating the deals, Hoyt said it will not be involved in setting any finer details of the agreements.

“The key to it is the companies are going to negotiate with student-athletes their value,” Hoyt said. “We're not saying to a company like, ‘Hey, this student-athlete is worth $10,000 a tweet.’ Nothing like that. We’re really just matching the companies with the student-athletes that could be a fit and letting them determine the details of the contract.”

Hoyt’s hope is to bring in around 20 partner companies within the first year of the program.

“I would consider that a success,” she said.  

The athletic department has taken an increasingly active role this year in facilitating NIL arrangements.

It updated its policy in January to allow for this and then set up an internal advisory group known as the NIL Edge Team to work with athletes.

The formation of the ambassador program, which was introduced to about 100 businesspeople at the Covelli Center earlier Thursday, marked the latest step.

Hoyt said the event was partly aimed at reassuring businesses that have been uncertain about getting involved in NIL due to concerns over potential NCAA rules violations.

“I still think there’s hesitancy in the community for companies to engage student-athletes and pay them as talent through their marketing department,” Hoyt said, “and we really just wanted to educate the companies.”

She added some hesitancy is rooted in the recent move by the NCAA to update its NIL guidelines, prohibiting schools’ boosters from contact with prospective athletes.

Businesspeople have worried about further restrictions being set by the college sports governing body that might limit their involvement.

NIL compensation has also been permissible for 11 only months.  

“There’s this feeling that the NCAA has to do something, that this can’t go on, so we don’t want to get involved in something that’s going to be pulled back,” Hoyt said. “I think it’s more of that than not understanding or not being interested. I think everybody still feels this can’t go on, and the reality is it is going to go on.”

At the event unveiling the program, football coach Ryan Day spoke of a need to at least raise eight figures in NIL money for players.

Day estimated $13 million was needed to keep the Buckeyes’ roster together beyond next season, including $2 million for a top quarterback, or risk seeing players transfer elsewhere to pursue more lucrative opportunities for endorsements.

“I don't want to speak for Ryan,” Hoyt said, “but I think in football, what you're going to see is certain positions are going to have market values, and I think that's what he's basing that number off of. And it's just a projection. ... But I think based on everything he's seen and what we know, it's a fair projection.”

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.

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