SARASOTA, Fla. — (K)Nowledge Is Limitless, would be the proper acronym and meaning of “NIL” when describing the newly formed NILENT company.
NIL Enterprise Solutions is on a quest to not only educate but motivate student athletes on the importance of financial literacy and brand marketing through extensive research and seminar teachings.
College athletes can now be compensated at an alarming rate. NILENT’s goal is to not only serve as a useful tool in every college in the country, but it hopes for its teachings to eventually become a college course/curriculum. Advocating for the athletes is the mission statement for NILENT.
Zenger News spoke with NILENT’s Chief Digital Officer to discuss why the time is now for NILENT.
Zenger: I want to let you give us some of your background on yourself and how did you get to the point of NILENT.
Chaudhry: I’ve been an independent filmmaker and producer for about 17 years. The beginning of my career was traditional filmmaking, brands, commercials, artists. In 2017, I founded the sport of boxing’s first ever content agency, so we served as a sports agency/content factory for professional boxers. That went extremely well. We signed over 50 athletes during our launch. We did amazing things with brands. For example, one of the activations that we pulled off was Pizza Hut. That was a milestone in boxing because the last time Pizza Hut sponsored a boxer was Peter McNeely and Marvin Hagler some decades prior. For Pizza Hut to come back to boxing through Break Media, which is the company I founded, was pretty epic. We created original content for boxers. Boxing was in dire need of being more publicized to the general public. So, we used the art of content to generate a mass interest in the space of sports news.
In 2020, I joined PlayersTV. I served as the head of production. PlayersTV was the country’s first athlete owned TV network. The athletes that we worked with and that were partnered with us were the likes of Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Travis Kelce, Vernon Davis, CJ McCollum, the best of the best from the NBA and NFL. I started producing premium series for these athletes on the network. These consisted of cooking shows, traveling shows, music shows. It was the same goal as Break Media, which was bringing these athletes into the homes of fans. That was cool. I did that for a couple of years.
I took some time off and now my recent migration to NILENT just came to fruition in early May. I’m currently serving as their Chief Digital Officer. NILENT will be one of the most prominent and leading figures in education for student athletes in college, because we see a disconnect with college athletes right now. You know how it is, bro. You’re playing college ball; you get an injury, and you’re finished. Or you don’t get injured, but you go undrafted, and your career is over, and you’re working some menial job because you weren’t prepared for what was next. We’re trying to educate these athletes on financial literacy, mental health well-being, and the art of brand building, so they can have something to hold on to post college and towards their careers. We take to heart the idea that NIL isn’t 4 years; it’s 40.
Zenger: A few years ago, this wasn’t a thing because NIL wasn’t a thing and college athletes could not accept or make revenue. Now that they can, how necessary is a company like NIL Enterprise Solutions (NILENT)?
Chaudhry: It’s super important because these college athletes play with passion, but their pockets are empty. They need a way to spike their own brands. The problem is the majority of these athletes don’t have access to an NIL agent. So, it’s incredibly important for them to be educated in order to monetize their name, image, and likeness.
Zenger: How much of a game changer do you feel a company like NILENT can be in terms of getting these athletes on the path of success?
Chaudhry: One of the most important things that NILENT is doing, the founders, Steven Simmons and Peter Hassen have created tactical educational videos similar to mini “Ted-Talks.” These students will learn from a representational group of professional athletes, entrepreneurs, and business school professors. It’s almost like a masterclass that they will be participating in during their college years. Essentially, this will be prioritized and a part of the athletic department, in order to comply with university and state laws requiring financial literacy and career transition skills. One of the goals NILENT is doing right now is ensuring the athletes are getting the best classes taught by the best instructors.
Zenger: You said a phrase that I think is so important in today’s frivolous spending times, financial literacy. That’s a big part of what NILENT represents, getting the money is one thing, being responsible with it is another.
Chaudhry: Financial literacy has always been a priority of mine as well. Just coming from the world of boxing where you deal with people who typically grew up in the inner city, they’re not college educated, so the difference between a basketball player and a boxer is, the boxer grows up into the sport, they enter the amateur ranks, hit training camps, and a lot of them don’t even finish high school. They don’t finish school because they’re already in the amateurs. You could imagine the frustration with these boxers once they start making real money, the reason they go broke so frequently is that nobody taught them the art of financial literacy. No one ever showed them how to open up a trust account, how do you open up a savings account, what does your portfolio consist of, how do I invest in properties, or housing? Things like that have always been dismissed to the traditional boxer.
If you bring the same format to the college athletes, it might be a little bit different because these kids are in school, but they’re not truly grasping the ideology behind financial literacy. They just think of it as a course you got to pass. You can’t think of it as a course you have to pass to continue to play ball. They want to learn about this, and we are coming up with ways to teach it in a more fun and interactive way through case studies and gamification, as well as through live sessions through with instructors who actually understand the fundamentals of it and in many cases, were former athletes as well. We are creating courses to make sure these young men and women ready for the real world after their playing days have ended.
Zenger: On a personal level, did it take some time for you to adjust to college athletes getting paid, or do you think this was long past due?
Chaudhry: It was long overdue. A lot of these athletes were local and regional superstars. The fundamentals of the term brand building can come from anywhere, whether it’s an athlete, influencer, it all starts with the grassroots community. These college athletes excel in this area more than anybody else, because they’re already considered the local heroes. There are literally millions of people who have come out to watch “March Madness” to come and watch their guy or girl play. There is a sense of notoriety with these athletes that needs to be codified under, name, image, and likeness, there has to be value attached to it. As NILENT continues to grow, I think the NCAA… well, they already see the value, but I think they will be more appreciative of how much revenue can be brought to the table from these athletes and would be best served being proactive when it comes to supporting college athletes-especially when it comes to education and mental health well-being.
Zenger: What are the short-term goals for NILENT?
Chaudhry: Early on we want to continue to build out our current library of classes which have been driven by athletic Directors and university officials. Another key component is partnering with the appropriate corporate partners who wish to get behind this important message of financial literacy and mental health well-being. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get behind an incredibly meaningful mission while reaching the elusive 18–24-year-old demographic uniquely. We want to be visible in every state, and we want to be visible in every single college in America. Of course, if there is an opportunity to make our program available for the general student, that’s even better. This has come up at several universities, so we are ensuring that much of the content is “evergreen” regardless of whether you are an athlete or chemistry major. Because at the end of the day, understanding a credit report isn’t something that just pertains to athletes. We do see an opportunity for us to expand further, which is why we are hyper focused on the proper strategic partners. We also are very excited about an incredible initiative we will be launching shortly highlighting some of the best and brightest college athletes in the country. Anyone wanting to learn more about NILENT, they can hit up www.nilent.org and they can add us on social media, (@nilpartners on Twitter) we’ll be happy to hear from them.
Edited by Alberto Arellano and Joseph Hammond