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Tuesday, February 05, 2008
 
The Exploitation of the College Athlete Continues....

In this week's edition of SportsBusiness Journal, Eric Fisher writes that college football’s national signing day, which is set for tomorrow, is projected to generate some of the largest traffic and ad buys of the year for several prominent sports internet sites (Web Sites Gear Up for Signing Day, 2/4/08, subscription only). Fisher notes that Rivals.com (owned by Yahoo!) last year generated 75 million page views and an estimated 1.5 million unique visitors for national signing day, and those numbers are projected to double this year. ESPN.com is expected to generate a seven-figure count in unique visitors as well.

According to ESPN.com vice president Patrick Stiegman, “This not too long ago was still very much a niche thing, but it’s absolutely exploded into this huge, celebratory day.” Be careful there, Mr. Stiegman, with your use of terms because you're acknowledging that you're reaping "huge" commercial gain off of their "celebrity" status (and you're not paying for it). Fisher writes: "Much of the recruiting content historically has resided behind a paid subscription wall. But as mainstream fan interest has grown, almost all of the content now has come to exist in a free, ad-supported model." Now let's be frank, while the revenue model may have changed, it's surely not "free". Nike, Circuit City and Conoco Phillips 76 are just a few of the companies making significant purchases for this year's signing day.

Here's an interesting tidbit of information from Fisher's article:

A big part of the rise in online interest stems from the nature of signing day itself. There are no exclusive rights to buy and exploit. Aside from scheduled commitment announcements and the occasional interview, there’s no live event video, either. Instead, the primary nature of the day is to track busily the massive rush of signings and analyze them as quickly as possible — a situation tailor-made for the Internet. (emphasis added)

Actually, a better way of saying "there are no exclusive rights to buy and exploit" is that nobody has been granted a license (i.e. authorization) to exploit the event. The day after Tim Tebow won the Heisman, I wrote him a legal opinion letter on the blog discussing his claim against third parties who are stealing his identity for commercial gain. The main hurdle keeping collegiate athletes from realizing the commercial value in their identities is a lack of organization on their part.





4 Comments:

I'm still waiting for High School Gameday from EA sports... Im surprised they haven't tapped into this goldmine of right of publicity violations yet...

Blogger Jimmy H -- 2/05/2008 9:17 AM  


I think college athletes would have a pretty good chance in succeeding on claims for right of publicity violations because they aren't "already handsomely compensated". Looking at past precedent, they fall somewhere in between Rosa Parks and professional athletes on the sympathy scale.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 2/05/2008 5:53 PM  


This is further evidence of a commercial institutional logic that permeates college sport. Big-time college football long ago ceased being "educational;" it's big business and everyone knows it. As a famous (or infamous) professional football coach is found of saying: "It is what it is."

I agree that exploited high-school and college athletes would have a ggod chance of succeeding on claims for right of privacy...The question is, who will be the "Rosa Parks" who has the social conscience to forfeit the "NFL gold at the end of the rainbow" that these athletes are all chasing?

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