PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh Athletic Department is excited to introduce Forged Here, an innovative Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) program designed to equip Pitt student-athletes with the knowledge and resources necessary to maximize their brand and platform.
Pitt will empower its student-athletes to take advantage of new NIL legislation by leveraging comprehensive partnerships with counterparts on campus as well as national industry leader INFLCR. In the ever-changing college sports landscape, student-athletes are now more attentive than ever in advancing their personal brand and setting themselves up for a successful future. Pitt Athletics is now well-equipped to offer its student-athletes that opportunity through a robust program focused on brand identity, business education, financial literacy, wealth management, entrepreneurship and social media proficiency.
“As it relates to providing our student-athletes with the most extraordinary experience at Pitt, our goal is to be progressive, innovative and helpful in every aspect of their student-athlete experience and the world of name, image and likeness is no different,” said University of Pittsburgh Director of Athletics Heather Lyke. “We look forward to helping our student-athletes learn more about this topic and build a transparent relationship with them and their families so we can assist in their efforts or aspirations to maximize compensation and opportunities involving their name, image and likeness.”
Forged Here, the program name derived from the University’s “Forge Ahead” branding theme, encompasses a unique educational partnership between Pitt’s nationally renowned Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program, the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Center for Branding at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. The Cathy & John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program, the nation’s largest such program, has been preparing student-athletes for success academically, athletically, and in their personal development for more than 25 years.
Navigating the Branding Terrain
“This partnership between the Center for Branding at the Katz Graduate School of Business and the Department of Athletics as well as the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is an example of how diverse teams at the University of Pittsburgh have come together around an innovative program that helps student athletes navigate the terrain of personal branding,” said Dr. Vanitha Swaminathan, Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing and Director, Center for Branding. “Our cutting-edge research will be utilized to develop a unique program that provides our students with the education and skills needed to develop, manage and leverage personal brands, with a view to strengthening their impact and influence. We look forward to forging ahead with this new initiative.”
“The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is excited to be collaborating with the Department of Athletics and the Katz Business School on this forward-thinking effort,” said Evan Facher, Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “By bringing together such a unique collection of experts in their various fields to Forged Here, Pitt is leveraging its world-class capabilities to create an impactful opportunity for our student athletes. We are looking forward to contributing our capabilities and forging a championship quality program.”
Pitt Athletics also has expanded its relationship with INFLCR — the leading brand-building platform for student-athletes — to include INFLCR Plus and INFLCR Verified. INFLCR’s NIL team assists college athletic departments in the implementation of content, compliance, and recruiting strategies to support athletics programs navigating new challenges and dynamics coming from eventual student-athlete Name, Image, and Likeness commercial activities. INFLCR’s Plus offerings equip athletics staff with the software, assets, and guidance to maximize their messaging to potential recruits, while providing unique insights for current student-athletes looking to build their brands and benefit from future NIL opportunities.
As athletic departments launch custom NIL programs at their institutions, INFLCR’s NIL team works to make each program unique while providing technology, resources, and support aimed at providing best-case scenarios for student-athletes who will soon look to participate in monetization activities or better market themselves for career opportunities from their NIL.
INFLCR also provides college athletic departments with the content delivery and compliance platform to assist NCAA athletics programs in the management and monitoring of student-athlete Name, Image, and Likeness activities. INFLCR’s Verified suite of products ensures student-athletes are provided the tools, content, financial literacy, and more to participate in upcoming opportunities from NIL legislation.
Powered by flagship new products like the Compliance Exchange administrator dashboard and Storyteller Playbook video library, INFLCR Verified enhances the student-athlete experience by offering a comprehensive solution for responsible brand-building on social media, as well as a fully compliant path to external commercial activity from NIL.
Athletic programs are adopting this approach to educate and prepare staff and student-athletes for new opportunities and complexities from upcoming NIL legislation, aiming to ultimately provide best-case scenarios for student-athletes who will soon look to participate in monetization activities from their NIL. INFLCR now serves more than 850 NCAA collegiate athletic teams and is used daily by more than 30,000 athletes to access content from competitions, practices, travel and more.
“Coach Capel and Pitt Men’s Basketball were some of the first to lean into INFLCR’s NIL vision in 2020, and we couldn’t be more excited to work with them in rolling out their new NIL programming department-wide with INFLCR Verified,” said INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale. “Through this expanded partnership, our INFLCR Plus team will be ready to support all of Pitt’s student-athletes in providing best-in-class guidance and education for them to succeed both on and off the court in the NIL era.”
Forged Here provides a comprehensive, campus-wide approach to empowering the Pitt student-athlete population and enable that group unmatched access to local and national experts. Pitt’s approach to the new NIL landscape will allow the student-athlete to be the focus of those who are empowering them to maximize their market value in this new college environment.
“Our goal as coaches is to provide our student-athletes with the finest support, opportunities and experiences,” said Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi. “Today’s announcement regarding our university’s approach to Name, Image and Likeness reflects that. Our student-athletes work tremendously hard. They deserve to fully benefit from their efforts. We are fortunate to have some outstanding support systems already in place at Pitt. When you combine those with our new NIL partnerships, especially in a thriving city like Pittsburgh, our student-athletes will be very well positioned to maximize their opportunities as we enter this new era.”
The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) inspires, educates and enables others to make an impact on society, improve the regional economy and transform their own careers. By working with individuals across the University, as well as external partners, the OIE helps launch innovations into the world whether they were developed in a lab on campus, created by a student in the classroom or were envisioned by a small business in Southwestern PA. By providing education programming, consulting services and networking opportunities, OIE helps to power invention and ignite progress. The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is led by the Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Evan Facher, PhD, MBA.
The Center for Branding at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business is dedicated to being a world leader in the study of branding, with a particular focus on leveraging digital marketing and social media to build strong brands. The center aims to provide cutting-edge research insights to industry partners, while developing a deep talent pool of marketing and branding professionals. The Center for Branding is committed to engaging in cutting-edge research, educating business leaders, partnering with industry, and collaborating with other academic partners both inside and outside of business schools, at the University of Pittsburgh and beyond. Vanitha Swaminathan, Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing and Director, will lead the collaboration between Pitt Athletics and the Center for Branding.