In July of 2021, a significant shift occurred in the college landscape as a result of new state laws and NCAA rule changes, granting student athletes the ability to monetize their name, image and likeness (NIL) rights. While popular athletes like Caleb Williams (the 2022 Heisman Winner), Livvy Dunne (11.4M followers on Instagram) and Bronny James (the son of Lebron James) capture much of the public’s attention with their multi-million-dollar valuations and large social media followings, there is less attention directed towards how student athletes can effectively manage their money. Over 520,000 individuals are now able to leverage their campus status for financial compensation and the potential impact on their lives is substantial. However, this newfound source of income at a young age also poses challenges. Within our Workplace Finance Monitor coverage set, most financial wellness providers currently do not offer specific content targeting this student athlete cohort. This creates a void in resources tailored to their unique financial needs and presents an opportunity for providers to address this underserved market.

In 2023, Financial Finesse introduced the NIL Long Game, an innovative online financial literacy platform specifically designed for colleges, universities and student athletes. This groundbreaking platform addresses a significant knowledge gap among student athletes, equipping them with the necessary education and guidance to navigate the wealth-building opportunities associated with NIL rights. By leveraging the NIL Long Game, student athletes can make informed decisions to improve their financial wellness, maximize their financial potential, and mitigate the risks of financial instability and burdensome tax obligations.

NIL Long Game Breakdown

The NIL Long Game platform offers a comprehensive three-module certification program, which includes START Your NIL Business, START Your Financial Future and START a Lifetime of Success. The program not only meets proposed and existing state-mandated financial literacy requirements but also delivers a rich learning experience. The financial wellness program integrates expert guidance from licensed CFP professional coaches, pro athletes turned entrepreneurs, NIL industry leaders and college student athletes who have already experienced financial gains.

The platform features four pages: Dashboard, My Courses, Life Events, and Library. On the Dashboard, students are greeted with multiple tiles prompting them to begin their first course. Successful completion of these modules results in a certification and a Financial Finesse NIL badge that participants can proudly share on their social media profiles. The Dashboard also features an overall progress meter, as well as individual module meters, providing participants with a clear visual representation of their advancement on their financial wellness journey. According to Workplace Finance Monitor research, 34% of survey respondents enrolled in a financial wellness program participated in viewing their accrued points or rewards, proving to be popular amongst participants. Additionally, 48% of users utilized actionable next step recommendations ranking both features in the top 10 financial wellness features amongst participants.

A screenshot of the NIL Long Game dashboard page
The NIL Long Game Dashboard

The firm offers a variety of interactive courses with engaging features like videos, downloadable PDF worksheets and links to external resources when applicable. Courses cover a variety of topics that student athletes may find useful, like setting positive examples in financial decision-making for others and addressing strategies for managing financial pressures. The Library section spans 17 pages, encompassing articles, blogs, calculators, downloadable PDFs, videos and podcasts, offering a diverse selection of content mediums. Additionally, the page incorporates features that enhance usability, like filters and predictive search.

This screenshot shows the My Courses page on the NIL Long Game portal
My Courses page

The platform takes a fresh approach to Life Events, catering topics specific to the needs and experiences of athletes. While the platform covers common life events—Getting Married or Starting a Family—like other firms in our coverage set, it also addresses student and student athlete-specific life events like Going Pro, Finding Your First Job, Navigating Student Loans, Moving On After College and Living with an Injury.

A screenshot showing the Life Events page on the NIL Long Game portal
Life Events page

Spanning across 17 pages, the Library encompasses articles, blogs, calculators, downloadable PDFs, videos and podcasts, offering a diverse selection of content mediums. To ensure ease of navigation, the Library page incorporates convenient features such as a predictive search bar, allowing participants to quickly find specific information they are seeking. Additionally, filterable options are available, enabling participants to refine their search by content medium and topic, further enhancing the findability of relevant resources.

This screenshot shows the Library page on the NIL Long Game portal
Library page

Financial Finesse stands out as a pioneer in initiating a positive shift in financial practices among a new target market. With established financial coaching relationships in major sports leagues and a robust network of professional athletes, universities, influences and associations, Financial Finesse has garnered substantial support for its new platform. The timing of this initiative aligns with the legislative changes introduced through the NIL deal. Across the United States, there are currently 54 personal financial educational bills pending in 26 states, while 11 states already mandate a standalone personal finance course for graduation, and over 20 other states incorporate personal finance education in varying capacities within their curriculum. As legislative efforts increasingly focus on younger generations, the demand for comprehensive financial wellness solutions resonates across age groups, highlighting the significance of early-stage retirement planning. Employers are also recognizing the value of attracting and retaining this demographic, underscoring the growing importance of addressing their financial well-being moving forward.

The future of NIL and financial wellness

As NIL legislation continues to unfold and schools invest more money into their athletic programs, firms in the financial wellness industry can play a crucial role by expanding their educational content to support novice investors and student athletes who experience significant income at a young age. The potential for increased funding in athletic departments, as seen in the Southeastern and Big Ten conferences generating over $2B in operational revenue last year, underscores the need for comprehensive resources that address the unique financial challenges faced by student athletes. Parallel with the growth of the financial wellness industry, more firms may seize the opportunity to target this market, bolstering their offerings with a diverse range of resources. By providing students with the tools to enhance their financial well-being at a young age and increase their retirement readiness, firms can contribute to the long-term financial success of this emerging demographic.

Subscribers can learn more about firms in our Workplace Finance Monitor coverage set on our client portal. Learn more here about CI’s research services for plan sponsors, plan participants and workplace finance programs. Or contact us to learn what our research can do for your organization.

Sebastian Fritsch

Sebastian Fritsch is an Analyst on CI's retirement and workplace finance team.