Sun. May 19th, 2024

FedEx announces NIL program for U of M student-athletes, invests $25 million

 Gabriel Huff, Rachel Phillips

The name, image and likeness (NIL) program will initially focus on football, men’s and women’s basketball, and additional women’s sports.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FedEx is investing $25 million into a new name, image and likeness (NIL) program for University of Memphis student-athletes, the corporation announced Friday, April 19.

Since NIL came into play in 2021, there has been no company this big, no donation this amount and no deal this long.

It’s no wonder it’s raising eyebrows in the college athletics world and with athletic directors everywhere.

“Many of them have been kind of like, ‘Dang, but congratulations,” University of Memphis Athletic Director Laird Veatch said. “Like, ‘Oh wow, you’re leaping ahead of us.'”

University of Memphis alum and longtime booster Harold Byrd said the investment is a monumental day and a monumental impact for the U of M.

After months of talks, FedEx will invest $5 million per year for the next five years in U of M athletes promoting FedEx initiatives. Veatch hopes the partnership can set an example nationwide.

“I believe a part of the solution for the future of college athletics is major corporate NIL support has to be part of the formula and we feel like we’ve provided maybe a glimpse into what that could be,” Veatch said.

The University is hoping the community will match 50% of FedEx’s donation each year, giving them at least $7.5 million in NIL to play with.

“I think this gives us the impetus for the people who support the university in terms of making contributions to the NIL fund for buying season tickets; it gives us a framework that you can point to that is the very best,” Byrd said.

Where the money goes each year is all up to the hometown juggernaut, but their focus initially will be on football, men’s and women’s basketball and additional women’s sports, all of it launching Memphis athletics to new heights.

“It sends a remarkable signal to the country that we are serious competitors and that we have the kind of resources and support here to compete at the highest level,” Veatch said.

FedEx said it is introducing the NIL model to improve its longstanding relationship with the university’s athletic department. The corporation is holding its first in-person NIL initiative at the U of M’s Spring Football Game on Saturday, April 20. The event will include a tailgate.

More initiatives are expected to follow throughout the year to capitalize on student-athletes’ name, image and likeness through social media programs, in-person events and FedEx Cares initiatives.

“We evaluated the evolving NIL landscape, exploring how we can best deliver positive impact to student-athletes and connect them to meaningful opportunities for both themselves and the community and made the decision to reallocate marketing funds to an NIL platform,” said Brian Philips, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at FedEx, in the press release. “This gives us an opportunity to invest in bright, young athletes in our great hometown of Memphis, strengthening our connection to the next generation of leaders.”

FedEx said the deal is part of a sports sponsorship portfolio, which includes supporting FedExForum, the FedEx/St. Jude Championships, the Southern Heritage Classic and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

It marks one of many ways FedEx continues to support University Athletics. They sponsor FedExForum, where the men’s basketball team plays, and FedExPark, where Tigers baseball plays. Fred Smith also just gifted $50 million to fund renovations of the football stadium.

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