On June 30, the NCAA agreed to allow college athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness. The deal ushered in a new era in varsity sport, one where athletes can sign sponsorship agreements, sell autographs, and cash in on their social media accounts. Some athletes use their NIL opportunities for charitable purposes.
Georgian gymnast Rachael Lukacs is working with Iconic Leos to design her own leotard, the “Lukacs”. All proceeds will go to Lydia’s Place, a non-profit organization in Athens that helps young adults who have been placed in foster care or homeless.
“I was unsure at first with the NIL thing,” Lukacs said. “But then [I realized] how I can make an impact using my name for different organizations like Lydia’s Place. “
How did it happen
Lukacs first visited Lydia’s Place last September and has volunteered. She stayed involved and worked more closely with the organization during the summer when she had more free time without classes or gymnastics, she said.
Iconic Leos is a newer company – it officially opened in August 2021. Lukacs worked with the brand ahead of its launch to prepare the leotard.
“We contacted Rachael prior to the launch,” said a spokesperson for Iconic Leos. “Our goal was that by working with Rachael, we were 100% focused on this mission of designing the [leotard] she was considering.
Iconic Leos contacted her due to her career in Georgia and time spent in community service, having been appointed to the SEC Community Service team in 2019 and 2020. Lukacs immediately agreed to work with Lydia’s Place when he got the chance, she said.
After starting the partnership, Lukacs was able to help design the leotard based on her own experiences and created her custom design. It is the brand’s best-selling leotard, according to an Iconic Leos spokesperson.
Lukacs is a junior from Hillsborough, New Jersey. Due to her hometown’s proximity to the beach, she wanted the ocean to be represented. She also wanted purple to be included as it is the main color of Lydia’s Place.
“I just thought it would look super cool, and then they just kept working with me to make sure everything was on top, that everything was going well,” Lukacs said. “They made a process so easy to do such an impactful thing. “
The NCAA decision made it possible for Lukacs and other athletes to work with other organizations such as Lydia’s Place to donate money on NIL agreements to charities. Lukacs said she and her teammates had the opportunity to take advantage of the new decision.
However, she said athletes need to strike a balance between NIL chords, athletics and focusing on school.
“This is just where it’s going to get a little tricky sometimes,” Lukacs said. “I think being more on top of that and prioritizing what you need… it’s just about making sure you’re a student-athlete before NIL trades.”
Lukacs is currently the only athlete Iconic Leos works with, but the company is working to include more athletes in its Iconic Leos Outreach program, which works with athletes to create custom leotards and direct funds to an organization of the choice of gymnasts.
Iconic Leo’s will take a percentage of all profits from Lukacs’ personalized leotard and later write a check to Lydia’s Place.
“It really felt like Iconic Leo’s vision to be useful was perfectly aligned with Rachael’s desire to use his NIL with purpose,” said a spokesperson for Iconic Leos.
While the gymnastics season has yet to start, gymnasts like Lukacs are already taking advantage of their ability to capitalize on it. UGA gymnast Rachel Baumann has signed an agreement with the Atlanta Braves, making the junior the very first female “athlete of the Braves”.
Other Georgian athletes are also using their NIL deals to give back to others, including Georgian quarterback JT Daniels, who has signed a deal with Everett Sports Management. As part of Daniels’ deal, he will donate half of his earnings to his teammates.
“It’s cool to see how they paved the way for us to be a part of things,” Lukacs said. “It helps us get more involved in the community. “