There are three main ways that an athlete can seek to commercialize his or her rights
▪ Sponsorship. Under a sponsorship arrangement, a corporate brand pays the athlete (or provides the athlete with products) in exchange for being granted certain marketing rights by the athlete, in order to promote the brand’s image generally. The marketing rights might take the form of participation in advertising, or wearing branded clothing, for instance.
Read related articles in this series
- The right to use images of athletes for commercial purposes – gold mine or undermined?
- Remedies available for breach of image right
- The right to use images of athletes for commercial purposes: The Nigerian Professional Football League
▪ Endorsement. An endorsement arrangement goes one step further than this. It involves the personal recommendation by the athlete of products made by the sponsoring brand, or at least a close association between the athlete and those products. In this case, the brand in question is not merely seeking to raise its profile but to affect purchasing patterns of the public. For example, many premium and luxury watch manufacturers have endorsement arrangements with athletes.
▪ Merchandising. Merchandising arrangements operate by monetizing the athlete’s own image rights and status, by applying it to the athlete’s ‘personal’ range of products. Generally merchandising requires considerable investment of resource into protecting and growing the athlete’s own image and ‘brand’, including investment in a trademark portfolio. This goes beyond what most athletes would require and this blog does not provide further detail on merchandising.
It is understandable why the Nigerian league has not deemed it necessary to insert non-compete clauses in the standard player contracts. The burgeoning commercial profile of the league is just becoming more enhanced with the signing of the first broadcast deal in November.
- Joint sale of broadcast rights to sport events
- The Nigerian Football League, players’ work health & safety – Part 1
- The legal and commercial implications of the new broadcast deal of the Nigeria Professional Football League.
It is only a matter of time before high profile brands besiege the league headquarters to leverage on the immense commercial potentials of the league. This would undoubtedly increase the purchasing power of the clubs to buy high profile players with existing personal brand sponsors and then the legal fireworks would start unless this lacuna is addressed immediately.
Can more be done within the framework of the NPFL rules to empower Nigerian players to enjoy the commercial use of their image rights?