In July 2021, the NCAA instituted revolutionary changes allowing college athletes to secure endorsement deals, sell personally affiliated merchandise, and earn money from social media accounts. On March 23, Adidas altered the collegiate landscape even further.
As the 50th anniversary of Title IX (prohibiting sex-based discrimination at educational institutions) approaches, Adidas announced a new campaign to ensure that NCAA student-athletes, regardless of gender, have equal access to its Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) network. Through the campaign, 50,000 eligible student-athletes across 23 Division I sports and 109 Adidas-partnered schools will be eligible to become paid affiliate brand ambassadors — a first for a major sports brand. The new network will roll out beginning with historically Black colleges and universities and across Power Five conference partners in the fall. By April 2023, Adidas plans to include access for every qualified school.
“At Adidas, we are committed to creating change through sport and recognize the important role student-athletes play in shaping the future,” Rupert Campbell, president of Adidas North America, said in a press release. “Our groundbreaking NIL program advances our commitments toward building inclusivity in sport and inspires athletes to realize a more equitable world. I can’t wait to see it come to life.”
To celebrate the occasion and to honor Title IX’s historic anniversary, Adidas schools participating in the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournament Sweet 16 rounds donned “More Is Possible” T-shirts, and will through the completion of championship games. The shirts’ backs feature a quote of the iconic 37 words that formally outlawed gender discrimination in American education and collegiate athletics.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
This initiative is only the apparel giant’s latest initiative in its ongoing Impossible Is Nothing campaign, which aims to grow accessibility, celebrate inclusivity, and create a more equitable future in sports. This includes partnership programs such as Athlete Ally, intended to evaluate and support improving the Athletic Equality Index scores across universities, and supporting the McLendon Foundation, which establishes paid fellowships for minorities across partnered athletic departments. This goes to the heart of the athletic retailer’s philosophy.
“This is not just a first-of-its kind program for the brand and industry, it goes much wider by unlocking opportunities in business and life that will enable them as student-athletes to maximize their NIL, opening the doors to future possibilities,” said Jim Murphy, Adidas NCAA program lead.
Adidas also continues to invest in partnership programs and campaigns that ally with notable athlete partners like Candace Parker, Billie Jean King, and many others who are working relentlessly to push the game forward.
“It has been a long 50 years since the passage of Title IX — and we’ve fought and played for equality every step of the way,” King said. “The progress we have made is incredible, but it’s time to focus on the next 50 years.”
“More Is Possible” shirts are available for retail for $25 at local collegiate retailers, Fanatics, and online.