Sam Bennett’s amateur status might prevent him from collecting a big prize money payout for his first-page leaderboard performance at the Masters, but it doesn’t mean he’s going home empty handed. Not only is the fifth-year senior at Texas A&M a lock to be low amateur, but he’s also probably secured seven figures in future name-image-likeness (NIL) endorsement money that college athletes and amateur golfers can now collect. That’s according to NIL expert and sports attorney Luke Fedlam, whose Advance NIL advisory company works with college athletes, schools and professional teams to navigate the endorsement space.
“The sort of television time Sam is getting today? The exposure his story is getting and the attention his social-media channels are getting? I’d estimate it will be worth at least in the high six figures—and probably seven figures—for him going forward,” says Fedlam, a partner and the sports law chair at Porter Wright in Columbus, Ohio. “We’ve seen college athletes on television in events like football or the NCAA Tournament, but the opportunity to have brand deals in place and represent them in competition against the professionals on the biggest stage? This changes the metric.”
Bennett is the obvious beneficiary of his own great play—shooting back-to-back 68s to get into third round final pairing with Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm across Saturday and into Sunday—but the sponsors who signed up with him before the week started really won the lottery. Ping, Suncast, Johnnie O, Veritex Bank and Cap Fleet are getting at least eight hours of prime Masters television exposure—and getting it in an advertising environment where other commercials are dramatically limited.
Bennett’s logos are mostly competing with the ones on the other players in his group—not tournament sports with big on-course signage. “There’s not only that television exposure value to a sponsor, but the fact that Bennett’s underdog story is one that everybody wants to follow,” Fedlam says. “He’s inspiring fans to Google his name to see what he’s about, which leads them to his social media channels, where he’s been thanking his sponsors. Conservatively, that’s been millions of dollars worth of exposure.”
Golf hasn’t had marquee NIL players like Texas football player Bijan Robinson or LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne, who have already made millions before their “professional” careers begin. But Fedlam says golf is ahead of many sports in the sense that the NIL game is one every player already plays.
“The sport is already used to its players trading their name, image and likeness to endorse products,” Fedlam says. “Pros have been wearing hats and logos for decades, and now college players stand to benefit from that. You know other brands are going to be investigating amateur players who have the potential to get exposure in big tournaments, because it presents the chance to get in for less investment and see a potentially huge return.”