YOUNGSTOWN — In the ever changing world of college athletics, the new “Name, Image, Likeness” rules provide athletes the opportunity to profit off their own brand, one of the caveats being they can’t use their school’s logos or uniforms however.
On social media, athletes can be seen selling apparel with their own logo or image, product placement, and so on, but many of the NIL partnerships around the nation don’t offer a sort of local connection between local business and nearby universities.
For Youngstown State women’s basketball players Mady Aulbach and Paige Shy, when the opportunity came knocking to possibly partner with local sports bar Sam’s Wedge Inn, it was something that piqued their interest when co-owner Marc Presley reached out to the duo.
“Most of the deals that we get, I feel like they reach out to us through Instagram, and I feel like it’s more, we can send you a free T-Shirt in exchange for one post,” Aulbach said. “Which is all really nice, we appreciate anything that we get, but the fact that we’re able to talk to Marc and text him, and work through all of this.
“He talks to (athletic director) Ron Strollo and compliance and all that kinda stuff, it makes it feel more personal, and he picked us because he knows what kind of people we are and not just because he saw our face and knows we’re an athlete, he wants to work with us as people.”
When Presley and fellow co-owner Don Sherwood wanted to potentially partner with athletes at Youngstown State, they wanted to search outside of the realms of football, and felt that several of the women’s basketball players had a strong social media presence, but Presley wanted to do his homework to find the right people to represent the Austintown, Ohio restaurant.
There were a few boxes that potential NIL athletes had to check.
“In my research, one of the first things that I inquired about, was how are they as far as students go, and Mady is a marketing and sales major, she’s a 4.0 student, which just jumped out at me as due diligence in the classroom, and commitment to her future,” Presley said. “Paige, herself, is a general studies major, but with a focus in chemistry and biology, and she’s a 3.2 GPA student.
“So, both very good students, everything I heard was these were really good girls, they were great representatives of our university and great representatives of our women’s basketball program, so that’s what was most important to me initially,” he continued. “The fact that they’re both very outgoing people and have a significant social media presence, that was great.”
Part of the agreement includes Sam’s Wedge Inn apparel, since athletes can’t advertise within their university gear, along with appearances at the restaurant outside of advertising on social media.
Aulbach has been a member of the women’s basketball programs for three seasons now, but Shy spent a pair of seasons at Marshall before transferring to Youngstown State. The Huntington, West Virginia native sees parallels in the “home town” feel that Youngstown shares with her home, especially with the opportunity to work with the Austintown youth programs.
“I think that we’re both very social, so just getting the community involved, especially the younger girls, I love kids, when I graduate I want to get into pediatrics, so I saw this as an opportunity to help Sam’s Wedge Inn, but also the young girls, community, and hopefully get more fans,” Shy said. “I feel like this is a really cool opportunity, not a lot of people get deals, so anything we get is super exciting, the fact that we’re able to get several, and especially this one on top, which is more personable, it’s really exciting.”
Being that she’s a business major, Aulbach finds a special appreciation in the art of negationing herself a deal and having back-and-forths with various businesses and brands.
It boils down to being able to network, giving her an edge once she’s able to enter the workforce.
“Everytime I do an NIL deal, I’m pretty much marketing myself and I am a marketing major, so that helps me within my major, but I also kind of know how to do it because I learn it in school,” Aulbach said. “Marc is a really good person, who has a really cool job outside of what he does outside of Sam’s Wedge Inn, so kind of being able to learn from him, knowing who he has as connections, and how he brought himself up, learning all of that about him is really cool.
“I’m literally in negotiations class in school right now, so it all goes hand-in-hand, I love the business side of stuff, and talking to people, so all these deals are right up my alley, she added.”