Morgan & Morgan Continues NIL Partnership with Kentucky: ‘It’s Our North Star'

Jacob Polacheckby:Jacob Polacheck10/10/23


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Morgan & Morgan, the nation’s largest injury law firm, is continuing to partner with the University of Kentucky for name, image, and likeness deals for the 2023-24 school year across multiple sports. The firm has already done partnerships with Kentucky football and men’s basketball, while also planning partnerships with women’s basketball and softball. 

“It’s probably our north star, our best example of what an NIL integration should look like when we do this model at other schools,” Dan Morgan, a partner at Morgan & Morgan, who leads the firm’s NIL efforts, told KSR+. “No school has been executed the way we’ve been able to execute with Kentucky.” 

Morgan & Morgan also has marketing assets, outside of the NIL space, in both Kroger Field and Rupp Arena. 

“Each year, we keep adding more to it because the return on investment and alignment with the Kentucky brand has been paying off,” Morgan said. “The alignment — not only with the fanbase but the university — it’s turned into a great partnership.” 

Kentucky Basketball Partnership

The firm did a partnership with Kentucky men’s basketball for the 2022-23 season, which featured digital billboards, TV commercials, and digital advertisements across social media and YouTube

“You go up there and do a full day’s shoot with these guys that are superstars in their own rights,” Morgan said. “Probably about four or five of those guys that we’ve done deals with are in the NBA or on a path to professional basketball to be in the NBA.” 

Morgan said that the shoot with Kentucky men’s basketball happened just before the team’s home matchup with South Carolina on January 10. Despite Kentucky’s 71-68 loss, Morgan called the experience “pretty memorable.” 

“We had courtside seats to see our amplification of not only our brand inside the stadium but also the experience with the players was awesome to see everything executed and come together all at once,” Morgan said. 

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Morgan & Morgan’s Approach Remains the Same

This is the third year that Morgan & Morgan is partnering with UK’s athletic programs for NIL and for the most part, Kentucky is handling its NIL the same.

“For the most part, the team is not doing too much,” Morgan said. “They have a collective, but we haven’t been too much a part of that. We’ve been able to go directly to the players.” 

With this being the third year of a team deal with Kentucky men’s basketball, Morgan said they know what to expect.

“It gets scheduled the right way. We do a media day,” he said. “They get their check, Morgan & Morgan swag, a catered lunch, and then they’re on their way. We have that part ironed out.” 

Since first partnering with Kentucky men’s basketball ahead of the 2021-22 season, Morgan said the talent pool has remained excellent. 

“Kentucky basketball is crushing it as Cal [John Calipari] always does in recruiting and you get some flashy players that come in,” he said. “That sometimes does hold up some negotiations to get things done, but so far, we’ve had a 100% participation rate on players all for the same amount, all doing the same thing. The walk-ons were getting just as much as Oscar [Tshiebwe] was, which we were proud of.” 

Putting Together an NIL Deal

For Morgan & Morgan, the process of putting together an NIL deal has become second nature to the firm. Morgan said that when the firm is looking to target a new school or sport, the first thing they do is ensure that they have an office, need, or locality close by the area. 

“For the most part, it’s identifying the market we’re after. That’s the first thing we look at,” he said. “It’s not really player-focused to start.” 

Morgan used the University of South Carolina as an example. 

“We’re in South Carolina now, so let’s take a look at South Carolina,” he said. “What sports are big there? What does South Carolina have going on that’s really good? They have women’s basketball. Alright, who’s their star player? Then, we work backward from that.” 

However, sometimes this comes with exceptions. 

“We don’t really have a great presence in Arkansas. We have some lawyers that take cases there, but we did a deal with an Arkansas defensive lineman,” Morgan said. “His name is John Morgan III, so it was kind of a layup to do a deal with him.” 

Identifying a Player and Team

Once the firm identifies the market and a potential player or team, it then looks toward its social media, specifically Instagram. 

“If they’re a high-profile person, they’ll have a contact, so and so, for deal inquiries,” Morgan said. “If they don’t have that, honestly, our people will send a direct message to their Instagram. We get in touch with their representatives or if they’re self-represented, we’ll send the contract and things over.” 

Oftentimes, the firm will have to go through a “clearing house” at universities, such as a compliance office. 

“We let them know who we are. They cross-reference and make sure everything is clear,” Morgan said. “We have to get the players’ tax information, do it all by the book, and make sure everything is buttoned up. If a player is doing a deal without all that going on, they could be disqualified. We make sure we do everything by the book and button it up before, one, a check is printed, and two, before any marketing materials go up.” 

For a school like Kentucky that has done multiple deals with the firm, the process is a lot smoother.

“With basketball, we have a whole team deal because there’s 12 players and we’re able to make it make sense financially,” Morgan said. “With football, it is more picking four or five players so that there’s some more jockeying. The players that have been there in the past know that we’re going to do it because they reach out or send a direct message, saying, ‘Hey, keep me in mind when the shoot is.’”

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This Year’s Kentucky Football Deals and Future Plans

Morgan & Morgan recently filmed TV commercials with several Kentucky football players, including edge rusher JJ Weaver, quarterback Devin Leary, and defensive lineman Deone Walker.

“We were able to get Devin [Leary] done this year,” Morgan said. “I was actually able to meet Devin at the last Kentucky Derby. We did a deal with Will Levis and he joked, ‘Hey is that deal going to be around for me?’ I said, ‘If you agree to the same terms he did, we’ll do it.’ So, it worked out.” 

Now, the firm is moving forward to not only promote men’s sports but also women’s.

“One of our main focuses last year was to get more involved with women’s sports,” Morgan said. “We’ve done a great job of that with softball programs and UFC with women fighters and boxers. We want to bring that to Kentucky next. We have plans to do a women’s basketball deal, a women’s softball deal.” 

Morgan said that the firm will shoot the men’s basketball content sometime in late October or early November. They will also begin shooting women’s basketball content and swapping out the current billboards that are up. 

“We’ve been doing TV commercials now too for short form and Instagram,” he said. “We’re thinking about bringing those more towards TV and radio to keep amplifying the partnership.” 

While Morgan can’t point to a direct correlation between NIL marketing and firm performance, he said that Morgan & Morgan has seen a 35 percent growth rate in Kentucky year-over-year. 

“We’re not doing too much differently except just pouring into these partnerships with UK,” he said. “We’re seeing an overall improvement to our overall growth that’s building the brand awareness and loyalty that fans have to that brand. That’s our goal. We’re on year five of the Kentucky partnership and going into year four of the NIL deals. We’re hoping to have these conversations 25 years from now.” 

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