Charlotte North began to become a household name around the time that her face went up on two billboards across Boston last June. After winning the National Championship and the Tewaaraton Award with Boston College lacrosse, North had plenty of recognition, but she had no way to capitalize on her newfound fame.
Fast forward a few weeks, and name, image, and likeness (NIL) legislation went into effect, giving student-athletes across the country the ability to financially profit from their personal brands.
In the six months that followed, North began to build up her personal brand. Most recently, she filed three trademark applications for logos using her name and likeness on Nov. 10, becoming the first BC athlete to do so.
“It’s definitely a really cool opportunity for athletes all across the board,” North said. “I think it’s something that should have come a while ago. … It’s really cool to see that there are so many opportunities to capitalize on it.”
Her trademark filings, if accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), will afford her the opportunity to use her own branding on merchandise, websites, camps, educational materials, and a miles-long list of other products and services.
In the interim, North has begun using her name to promote her youth lacrosse camps, which she couldn’t have done prior to the passing of the new NIL laws. Her first youth camp, which she held over Thanksgiving Break, took place in her hometown of Dallas, Texas.
“Previously … whatever the camp, clinic, club, whatever it was would always be promoted as ‘Come learn from Division I athletes,’” North said. “Very vague, not using names or anything.”
In her first camp under her own name, 90 youth and high school athletes signed up to learn from North at her former high school, the Episcopal School of Dallas.
“It went by really, really quickly even though each session was two and a half hours,” North said. “It was a ton of fun, and getting to see those girls having fun with each other was really special too.”
Still, NCAA athletes aren’t awarded full freedom in how they brand themselves. Promotional images, for example, can’t include iconography from the student-athlete’s college or university, and athletes have to navigate a complicated legal landscape that is constantly changing.
North has employed agent Peter Miller of Jabez Marketing Group to help her work with the changing laws. She also leans on business advice from her father, an investment banker who went to law school.
Despite the challenges, for many athletes, the payoff for maximizing the benefits of NIL legislation is significant.
“The legal advice would be for any athlete that they should file trademark applications because not only is that smart from a brand-building perspective, if Charlotte goes professional … she could license that to companies like Nike or other apparel makers to then use her logo and pay a licensing fee for that,” Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney at Gerben Perrott PLLC, said.
North’s three proposed logos include a silhouette of herself, featuring her signature braid, shooting the ball, and one includes the words “Charlotte North Lacrosse,” also the name of her personal brand.
“There’s not many lacrosse logos out there, I would say,” North said. “So I guess I wanted one that meant something to me and also just spoke to the sport.”
North made her filings with the help of an agent, but that is not the case for all collegiate athletes.
“I’ve seen some athletes making filings on their own, just going to either the USPTO or maybe using some kind of online service to do it,” Gerben said. “I’ve seen a number of ways, but there’s definitely some that have professional representation and some that are operating on their own.”
Regardless of how an athlete chooses to capitalize on his or her name, image, and likeness, the process is a complicated legal web that relies on intense knowledge of the process and its technical aspects, according to Gerben.
“There’s things that can go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said.
After holding a handful more camps across the country throughout the late fall, North has turned her attention elsewhere. With a National Championship under her belt at BC, she’s still got more to do as the lacrosse season starts on Feb. 12.
“I first and foremost want to stay focused on our goals as a team and individually here at school and on the field,” North said. “So I obviously want to prioritize that.”
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics