Episode 6: Looking back, and ahead, at both NIL and the Zone In podcast

By Luke Conway



In this episode of Zone In, hosts Kayvon Thibodeaux and Chase Griffin are joined by Sam Palmer of J.P. Morgan Wealth Management to look back on the first season of the podcast, review highlights and pull out some of the important themes that have come up in their discussions of NIL for student athletes. The three begin the conversation by talking about the fact that NIL is such an open opportunity for student athletes.


As Kayvon says, “the best part about NIL was that there wasn’t a blueprint. When it started, a lot of these young men and women, it was their first time being in the marketing world. So even, including myself, being able to kind of write your own blueprint and kind of give yourself your own path, you know, it's been beautiful.”


Chase and Sam agree and add that this “no blueprint” atmosphere puts added importance on storytelling and authenticity in athletes’ partnerships with brands. Sam recalls Gianna’s story of coming out and “really leaning into her LGBT persona,” and how Jordan has embraced being herself as a Black woman. Sam says both these athletes demonstrate “the importance of authenticity and bringing your full self to these partnerships.”


Next, Chase, Kayvon and Sam talk about how NIL has changed the dynamic of sports in college. They agree that it has started to create more equity for student athletes, but there is still more to come.


“I think NIL is really the first of a lot of dominoes that look at the equity imbalances in sports, especially collegiate sports,” Chase says. He recalls that when the NIL decision was first made by the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh talked about NIL as an equity issue. “It really is the first domino in a long road that is sort of inevitable, which is revenue share,” Chase adds.



Common threads



When discussing the guests who have been on Zone In this season, Chase, Kayvon and Sam point out that many of them talked about the importance of building healthy financial habits. Some of the guests, such as Jordan and Gianna, said they had learned smart financial habits from their parents. For others, it was important to seek out information, such as this podcast. Chase describes NIL as “a chance to practice.”


“Even if you weren't raised with those values and habits around you, it’s better to learn that while you’re in college, especially if you’re on scholarship, than to have to learn that with your first million dollar check,” says Chase.


Other common threads the hosts noticed was that each guest is an intense competitor, as most athletes are, and they had lots of confidence and discipline. Those characteristics drove them to seek information about NIL and to educate themselves. They had the discipline to keep learning and treat NIL and making partnerships professionally.


Many guest athletes talked about the importance of mentors, and Kayvon brings up his mentor and business partner, Travelle Gaines, who was a guest on the podcast recently. “Having Travelle around has just been so powerful because he’s been able to give me wisdom that I couldn't get anywhere else.”


Chase is self-represented, but he says that he is only able to do that because of the mentorship of his father, who has worked in the space. But he says he will seek out guidance from many sources, including peers.


“I always try to find groups of people who are my age that are doing similar things, and it doesn't even have to be athletes,” he says. “It’s always important to have mentors, have people who’ve already done it, but I think it’s equally important to have people around you who are gonna be able to help you along the way, who you’ll also be able to help.”



Looking outward



Chase, Kayvon and Sam talk next about the influence that athletes have through their NIL partnerships. Athletes can inspire others not only through their athletic feats, but also by creating an image of someone with good financial habits, strong morals and positive priorities. “One of the most important things about Jordan is, she not only inspires young gymnasts, young Black gymnasts, but she inspires young Black women and probably just young women everywhere,” Chase says.


The hosts close the episode by circling back to this idea of influence when they summarize the purpose behind the Zone In podcast. “It’s to bring the community together,” says Kayvon. “And it’s to help the youth and the upcoming entrepreneurs, the upcoming students, upcoming athletes, understand the power that they have in financial health, personal brand building and the power of NIL.”