CU creates “Buffs With a Brand” to navigate student-athlete NIL ventures

Brand management, student-athlete entrepreneurship among main focuses

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
The University of Colorado athletics department on Monday announced the “Buffs with a Brand” program to work in concert with the NCAA’s name, image and likeness legislation expected to be put to a vote in January 2021.

The first hint of change might have been dropped before the weekend by the official Twitter account of the Colorado men’s basketball team, which posted a general recruiting message that said, “Build Your Brand Here.”

On Monday, the university announced how exactly it intends to help student-athletes do that in the future with the creation of the “Buffs With a Brand” program, which will coordinate name, image and likeness opportunities with CU’s athletes.

A month ago, the NCAA Board of Governors approved the long-awaited revision to NCAA rules allowing student-athletes to be compensated for name, image and likeness opportunities. The details as to how those opportunities will be regulated and monitored are still being discussed, with the NCAA eyeing a January 2021 vote for final approval.

CU, however, has decided to get ahead of the curve with the formation of the “Buffs With a Brand” program. Buffaloes athletic director Rick George has served on the NCAA’s name, image and likeness committee, and he is turning to resources within the athletic department and across the university to create the new program.

“‘Buffs with a Brand’ will be an extremely impactful program for all of our current and future student-athletes,” George said in a statement released by CU.  “Building a personal brand, and developing the skills to be a successful entrepreneur will help our student-athletes capitalize and build on their time at CU and beyond.”

The “Buffs With a Brand” program is set to focus on three areas, including brand management for athletes to develop their own personal marketing plans; financial literacy to create and maintain profit and loss statements; and entrepreneurship.

CU has tabbed Lauren Unrein, the assistant director of the SCRIPPS Leadership and Career Development Program, to lead the “Buffs With a Brand” venture. Erick Mueller, an adjunct professor in the Leeds School of Business, also will be involved in “Buffs With a Brand,” and CU also looked outside the university to land the services of Jeremy Darlow, an experienced athletic brand consultant from Brands Win Championships.

According to Monday’s release, student-athletes from all of CU’s varsity athletic programs are eligible to participate on a voluntary basis, with the program designed to “educate CU’s student-athletes to be provided with the tools and resources to enable them to capitalize on their name, image and likeness given the NCAA legislation that takes effect in January 2021.”