Sydney McGlone Arkansas

Arkansas Gymnastics Alumna Sydney McGlone Helps Student-Athletes Navigate NIL With New Role

For five months student-athletes have been scheduling brand work into their daily planners, universities have been creating new positions within athletic departments and coaches have become guides as athletes are adjusting to the new NIL rules. 

The name, image and likeness went into effect on July 1 and allows athletes to make money off their name and image through brand deals and endorsements. Arkansas was one of the first universities nationwide to take action to ensure its athletes had resources available to take advantage of the new opportunities NIL might provide.. 

Sydney McGlone, an Arkansas gymnastics alumna with a master’s in sports management, was right in the middle of the action when she became the school’s first athlete brand development coordinator. McGlone began her position as soon as the rule went into effect, working alongside Terry Prentice, the senior associate athletics director for athlete brand development and a former Arkansas student-athlete. 

The early start on hiring within the department has allowed Arkansas to have more brand deal signings than larger school competitors. McGlone says the team of her and Prentice was the first of its kind in the NCAA, which gives the university an advantage. 

The University of Arkansas is also in a unique position. Since the state doesn’t have any professional sports teams or other major universities, Razorback athletes are its sports idols; they’re more visible and well-known than their collegiate peers may be in neighboring states that also have professional teams or multiple collegiate fanbases. It also means that brands or businesses based in Arkansas looking for athlete partners look exclusively to the Razorbacks. According to Prentice, many of Arkansas’ student-athlete deals are with local or regional companies. 

As of Nov. 1, Arkansas Athletics has over 300 brand deal signings that represent all 19 of its athletic teams—compared to schools that have over 30 sports and have yet to reach 300. McGlone says this stat is sure to be an asset when it comes to recruiting.

“We can help your student-athletes while they’re here to take advantage of it (NIL),” she said. “They are not going to be alone, and they don’t have to get themselves into trouble because they don’t know what they are doing.”

Arkansas hosts baseline education for all student-athletes prior to the academic year calendar to give them necessary information regarding NIL. Additionally, Prentice says they host workshops that are tailored to specific niches, such as trademarks, licensing and intellectual property, to enhance student-athletes’ education on the topic.

McGlone says many of her conversations with athletes are one-on-one discussions through office hours with the purpose of providing guidance as they navigate the new rules and opportunities. Prentice defines the relationship between the athletes as mentor-mentee and says the two brand development coordinators spend time in athletes’ spaces to answer any questions they may have. The majority of the brand partnerships are dealt with through the athletes’ communications with the brand.

Senior gymnast Kennedy Hambrick shared that the majority of her brand deals have come about through social media, particularly Instagram. From Instagram the process leads to email where Hambrick and the company hammer out the details of the official contract. Hambrick sends the information to McGlone and Prentice for approval before anything is signed. Then, Hambrick signs and the collaboration begins.

“The biggest thing is that our student-athletes have to disclose to us before they enter into an agreement with a company or business or brand,” Prentice said. “We have parameters and rules in place to make sure our student-athletes are letting us know what they’re getting into, but at the same time giving us advance notice so that they are not put into a bad situation or a bad position where they would do something that would impact them negatively from a business standpoint.” 

Arkansas’ gymnastics team has the bonus of having a head coach in Jordyn Wieber who has plenty of experience with name, image and likeness, even if it’s not from the NCAA level.

“I would bring out any deals that I would be interested in and she would talk me through it,” Hambrick said. “Is this what you want to support? How would you go about [doing it]?”

McGlone echoed that Wieber is a great role model for the team and has been using her experiences with brands to help her athletes. In one case where a couple gymnasts have a restaurant partnership where they are required to post a set number of times, Wieber suggested that instead of going to the restaurant every week, the gymnasts take one trip for a mini photoshoot to build up a well of content options and to make the most of their time.

Time efficiency is a big added stress on student-athletes, something many of them may not have expected ahead of NIL. Not only do they still have schoolwork, practice and travel, they now have to juggle brand responsibilities as well.

NIL has allowed the athletes to gain the experience of having a part-time job through these brand deals and has allowed student-athletes to create a name for themselves away from the competition floor.

“They’re able to start working with companies that they’re passionate about so they can build that network for later,” McGlone said. “Terry will say this himself: We’re trying to [help them for life after] being a student-athlete because being it obviously doesn’t last forever. We’re trying to teach them skills that contribute to their career goals.”

Hambrick echoed that the opportunity to work alongside these companies helped establish herself as not just an athlete but as a person. 

“It’s going to be a thing that really helps athletes join the workforce, get used to making money, learn how to do taxes, expand their name and essentially get a head start on life,” Hambrick said.

READ THIS NEXT: International Student-Athletes Are Missing out Big on NIL

Article by Katie Walsh and Emily Minehart

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