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San Diego State football star becomes a pioneer in selling name, image, and likeness

SDSU Football Star Greg Bell
Posted at 6:20 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 16:39:18-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Less than a week after the NCAA finally gave in and began allowing student-athletes to cash in on marketing and sponsorship deals, a San Diego State football star has become one of the first pioneers to dip his toe in the water.

On the July 1, the first day it was allowed, starting running back Greg Bell announced he was open for business.

"I just put it on social media so people could reach out, I could reach out to people. If everything makes sense, then we can start working together. I hope everything takes off," Bell said in an interview with ABC 10News.

Legal battles have been working through the court system for years in the effort to allow collegiate student athletes to be paid. With several states, including California, passing legislation to allow "name, image, and likeness" deals, known as NIL, the NCAA finally gave in and began allowing players to make their own marketing and sponsorship deals. There are several restrictions, including not advertising for any illegal product. Athletes also can not use university logos in their ads.

Bell says he got several responses to his initial tweet. One company he's chosen to work with is a local startup company called Meetlete. The app will allow fans to book video calls with sports figures who sign up to use the platform. In an example from beta testing on the Meetlete website, a Padres fan got to talk baseball with broadcaster Joe Buck.

“Fans want to meet their favorite athletes, and athletes want to meet their fans with safety, security, and convenience," Meetlete CEO and Co-Founder Rob Connolly told ABC 10News.

The talent gets to set the price of a 4-minute video conversation. The talent keeps 75%. Connolly says out of Meetlete's cut they will make a small donation from each call to a charity of the talent's choice. In Bell's case, he plans to charge $65. He chose the SPIN Foundation to benefit. It's a non-profit that helps single-parent families in need.

Experts say the size of the marketing deals signed by college athletes will likely be miniscule compared to those of professional athletes. In addition, most college athletes won't have enough name recognition to land sponsors. However, for those who do, even a modest amount could have a big impact. While they are receiving a college education on full or partial scholarships, there are limits as to what they are provided. And because of the vast time demands of being a student-athlete, many do not have the option of working outside jobs. So even making an extra $100 every now and then makes a difference. In fact, besides working with Meetlete, Bell has landed his first endorsement, in which he'll receive meals in exchange for tweets plugging a local restaurant.

While Bell is excited to see what opportunities await, he also understands his priorities.

“I don’t think people should take their eye off the prize, which is getting a degree and playing football. It’s a good opportunity. But you should always be looking to get your degree and play football, because the opportunities are going to come," he said.