Zone In

New York Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux and UCLA quarterback Chase Griffin team up with Sam Palmer from J.P. Morgan Wealth Management for a six-episode podcast series on name, image and likeness (NIL), personal branding, generational wealth and more. Follow us as we discuss some of your favorite student athletes’ financial journeys and navigation through this space. New episodes dropping weekly.

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Building Generational Wealth

Friday Jun 23, 2023

Friday Jun 23, 2023

Looking back, and ahead, at both NIL and the Zone In Podcast
In this episode, Zone In hosts Kayvon Thibodeaux and Chase Griffin are joined by Sam Palmer of J.P. Morgan Wealth Management to look back on the first season of the podcast, review highlights and pull out some of the important themes that have come up in their discussions of NIL for student athletes. The three begin the conversation by talking about the fact that NIL is such an open opportunity for student athletes.
As Kayvon says, “the best part about NIL was that there wasn’t a blueprint. When it started, a lot of these young men and women, it was their first time being in the marketing world. So even, including myself, being able to kind of write your own blueprint and kind of give yourself your own path, you know, it's been beautiful.”
Chase and Sam agree and add that this “no blueprint” atmosphere puts added importance on storytelling and authenticity in athletes’ partnerships with brands. Sam recalls Gianna’s story of coming out and “really leaning into her LGBT persona,” and how Jordan has embraced being herself as a Black woman. Sam says both these athletes demonstrate “the importance of authenticity and bringing your full self to these partnerships.”
Next, Chase, Kayvon and Sam talk about how NIL has changed the dynamic of sports in college. They agree that it has started to create more equity for student athletes, but there is still more to come.
“I think NIL is really the first of a lot of dominoes that look at the equity imbalances in sports, especially collegiate sports,” Chase says. He recalls that when the NIL decision was first made by the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh talked about NIL as an equity issue. “It really is the first domino in a long road that is sort of inevitable, which is revenue share,” Chase adds.
Common threads
When discussing the guests who have been on Zone In this season, Chase, Kayvon and Sam point out that many of them talked about the importance of building healthy financial habits. Some of the guests, such as Jordan and Gianna, said they had learned smart financial habits from their parents. For others, it was important to seek out information, such as this podcast. Chase describes NIL as “a chance to practice.”
“Even if you weren't raised with those values and habits around you, it’s better to learn that while you’re in college, especially if you’re on scholarship, than to have to learn that with your first million dollar check,” says Chase.
Other common threads the hosts noticed was that each guest is an intense competitor, as most athletes are, and they had lots of confidence and discipline. Those characteristics drove them to seek information about NIL and to educate themselves. They had the discipline to keep learning and treat NIL and making partnerships professionally.
Many guest athletes talked about the importance of mentors, and Kayvon brings up his mentor and business partner, Travelle Gaines, who was a guest on the podcast recently. “Having Travelle around has just been so powerful because he’s been able to give me wisdom that I couldn't get anywhere else.”
Chase is self-represented, but he says that he is only able to do that because of the mentorship of his father, who has worked in the space. But he says he will seek out guidance from many sources, including peers.
“I always try to find groups of people who are my age that are doing similar things, and it doesn't even have to be athletes,” he says. “It’s always important to have mentors, have people who’ve already done it, but I think it’s equally important to have people around you who are gonna be able to help you along the way, who you’ll also be able to help.”
Looking outward
Chase, Kayvon and Sam talk next about the influence that athletes have through their NIL partnerships. Athletes can inspire others not only through their athletic feats, but also by creating an image of someone with good financial habits, strong morals and positive priorities. “One of the most important things about Jordan is, she not only inspires young gymnasts, young Black gymnasts, but she inspires young Black women and probably just young women everywhere,” Chase says.
The hosts close the episode by circling back to this idea of influence when they summarize the purpose behind the Zone In podcast. “It’s to bring the community together,” says Kayvon. “And it’s to help the youth and the upcoming entrepreneurs, the upcoming students, upcoming athletes, understand the power that they have in financial health, personal brand building and the power of NIL.”
Link to the full transcript here. 

Creating Your Own Team

Friday Jun 16, 2023

Friday Jun 16, 2023

Two NIL Experts Talk Strategy and Resources to Empower Athletes at Any Level
In this episode of Zone In, two former college athletes that have now found themselves on the other side of the playing field join hosts Kayvon Thibodeaux and Chase Griffin. Travelle Gaines is Kayvon’s mentor, longtime friend and business partner, coordinating his name, image and likeness deals. And Michelle Meyer is the founder of the NIL Network, a hub of information for anyone involved in the NIL industry. They’re joined by Sam Palmer of J.P. Morgan Wealth Management, who provides insights and resources to help listeners build healthy financial habits of their own.
Travelle opens the episode describing how he played Division I baseball in college, but was equally focused on academics. He became a college strength coach then moved home to Louisiana to be around his family and opened a gym. His relationship with Kayvon began as a training relationship and turned into a business partnership around NIL deals.
Michelle was also an athlete, playing volleyball collegiately at UC Santa Barbara and then professionally in Denmark. Returning to the states, she coached at both the University of Hawaii and Pepperdine University as well as with USA Volleyball. She says her interest in NIL was sparked with the O’Bannon decision in 2014, which ruled that the NCAA's practice to ban payments to student athletes violated antitrust laws.
“I was coaching beach volleyball at the University of Hawaii and I thought, man, my athletes would love to take advantage of their own name, image and likeness,” Michelle recalls. “And I don't think necessarily they would have done it through social media endorsements. But even the opportunities for entrepreneurship and running camps and clinics and really using their own name would have been so powerful for them on the islands.”
By 2020, she was starting to work on the NIL Network, realizing that NIL deals were coming to college and not enough people were paying attention to the trend.
Helping athletes leverage their NIL
Michelle describes how the NIL Network operates as a resource aggregator for athletes at all levels who are interested in exploring the space. She collects resources including news articles, podcasts, databases and more.
“I've found about 400 new service providers that are working in the space and partnering directly with athletes across [about] 10 different sub-industries with marketplaces and agencies and advisors,” she explains. “And so it's a place where athletes can go and filter through and find support to help them monetize their [NIL]. So it is mostly just for autonomous independent athletes to get on there and do their research and figure out, you know, how to make this space work for them.”
Meanwhile, Travelle says his partnership with Kayvon grew organically from their training relationship.
“We had an interesting strategy. I sat down with Kayvon. He's very authentic. And I felt that he has to be real. He has to be him. He did not want to do anything that's going to have a negative effect on the Black community,” said Travelle. “So whether it was fast food, whether it was soda…we were not able to promote that.”
Kayvon ultimately turned down two six-figure deals because they didn’t match his values or his strategy. He says building the trusting relationship with Travelle was key. “I think it starts with just not being afraid, right? When I say afraid, we scare ourselves into not asking questions or being too prideful to tell someone that we didn't know,” says Kayvon. He recalls that every time he came into Travelle’s gym, he would have a new question or idea to bounce around. And the two grew their successful strategy from there.
Leveraging resources and strategies
Travelle, Michelle, Chase and Kayvon all agree that being strategic and connecting to resources like the NIL Network and formal or informal advisors are key to empowering athletes at any level to monetize their brand. Sam adds some practical advice for listeners:
“Creating a strategic plan is difficult and it's not natural to us,” he notes. “There is this concept of present bias where it's hard for us to plan for things that are far away in the future and that we're not emotionally connected to. One way to get around it is to reward yourself for good behavior. For example, in college, every time I paid off $200 for my credit card that I allowed myself to buy lunch from the nicer cafeteria. You have to figure out what that reward is for you. But we all need help in creating that strategic plan.”
Full Transcript Located Here.

Wednesday Jun 07, 2023

In the fourth episode of Zone In, hosts Chase Griffin and Kayvon Thibodeaux are joined by Jordan Chiles, an Olympic gymnastics medalist who’s also a UCLA athlete. The three discuss how a strong foundation of financial literacy can start with family at home and set an athlete up for future success.
Jordan has been a member of the U.S. Women's National Team in gymnastics since 2013. She moved to Texas when she was 18 to start her Olympic journey with Simone Biles and her coaches at World Champions Center. Since then, she’s become a UCLA Bruin, and today she goes back and forth between the international side of gymnastics and college gymnastics. About getting to work with Simone, Jordan says, “Honestly, it's just been an amazing experience having somebody that you've always looked up to being so close to you who encourages you… it’s just an exciting feeling.”
Finding her financial footing
As someone who straddles two worlds – elite college sports and Olympic-level pro sports – Jordan has had a unique opportunity to see the marketing and financial angles from two perspectives. She says she’s done deals from both angles, and each offers benefits. On the pro side, she says, bigger deals are possible. But she does about half of her deals on the college side. “Honestly, I feel like it's been pretty good knowing that I have UCLA gymnastics behind my back, you know, obviously helping me with deals and their interviews and everything that kind of comes along with being a student athlete,” she tells Chase and Kayvon.
From the beginning, she says, she’s worked hard to be financially savvy and prudent. “And then obviously, just being able to kind of look back on the financial things and making sure that time management is okay and controlling how you want to set your goals,” she explains. “And that's what I've learned, just being an elite athlete and also a pro athlete. I basically work three jobs at this point, and understanding that a young age definitely makes me put a perspective in place: Okay, by the time I'm 25, what am I going to do? By the time I'm 30, what am I going to do?”
Family influence
In terms of managing her money, Jordan says her parents have been her guides. “My family is very business oriented,” she says. “My mom is a property manager/owner, and so for her to learn that at a young age, she obviously taught my family like, okay, this is what you have to do in order to succeed bigger than what we've done as your parents. And so keeping that in mind, my dad actually taught me about the whole savings situation because he told me, you know what, I wish I did this at your age, so I'm going to teach you how to do it now.”
Jordan says she took her dad’s advice to heart and started saving when she first started earning money from endorsements and other deals. “And so I basically was like, okay, I'm going to follow that,” she recalls. “So I take a percentage of whatever I get from a contract or whatever, put it in my savings, and just keep doing that because you obviously can live off of your savings if you know how to put your savings together the right way.”
Jordan says family support has been essential to her journey. “I'm all about support,” she tells Chase and Kayvon. “My sisters are in my circle, my mom's my social media manager, my dad's my security guard.” She feels the same connection with non-related members of her management team, and says her agent is like a second mom. “This is really cool because she can understand maybe what I'm going through that day or really push on me [and say], ‘Okay, I know you're going through a tough time, but let's try to figure this out with the whole deal situation.’”
As for the future, Jordan says she’s going to see what comes. One aspiration she’s always had is to be a real estate agent. “But obviously, I'm just going to see where life takes me,” she says. “Whether it's teaching kids how to do flips or giving advice to kids in the hospitals or giving back to charities or just helping out foundations or even doing podcasts. I just want to be able to say when I leave the earth, I was able to leave an impact in every single area that I know I'm dedicated to.”
Full transcript here 

Friday May 26, 2023

Tennis phenom Gianna Pielet sits down with hosts Kayvon Thibodeaux and Chase Griffin to discuss how she navigated athletic stardom at an early age and learned to be true to herself.
Gianna started paying tennis when she was five, and by age eight she was winning national tournaments. At age 14, she signed a deal with Adidas, one of 15 female athletes the brand signed to represent Title IX, an expansion of civil rights laws that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funding.[1]
“Adidas has been amazing,” she says. “They've done a great job really supporting me and they've been with me through my journey, so it's just been awesome.”
By 18, she was ranked number 3 in the nation, and had the opportunity to go pro. “But I decided that the college route was good for me,” she says. “Because college is just a great opportunity for me to grow as a person and as a player.” After looking at offers from Georgia, Oregon, Duke and UNC, she chose Texas A&M as the best fit.
Learning and growing
Gianna says her parents have been her biggest supporters throughout her journey. And when she started earning a stipend at college and then pulling in big endorsement money, they were the ones who helped her learn how to manage it.
“I was actually terrible with spending my money, especially when I was younger,” she says. “So my mom was very, Put it in, save it, save it, you need to save that money. And I was always like, I want to spend it. And actually my first year of college, because I'm on scholarship, they give us a stipend and I went a little nuts with it and I kind of spent so much money that my parents had to end up paying rent and stuff like that. So I've really learned so much about saving my money and just not spending.”
Today, she puts her money into a savings account and has a retirement fund that her parents helped her set up. She hopes to keep working with Adidas and also sign other brand deals. She says she feels confident in her ability to manage her career and her money moving forward, and gives the credit for that to both of her parents. Along the way, as she’s improved her time- and money-management skills, she’s had other influences and mentors too. “I've had so many great people from Adidas, like Billie Jean King, Layshia Clarendon, Candace Parker, who are amazing athletes, amazing people, and they've really set the tone for me.”
Navigating the NIL world has also helped her develop. “It's definitely got me more disciplined, I would say, especially with my goals and what I want to achieve,” she says. “And I know now, if I want to become professional in tennis, I need to save for my future and save for whatever I want to be. And I feel like that with the NIL deals, it's really helped me become more like, okay, this is what I want to do and I'm going to save for it.”
Being true to herself
The biggest lesson she learned along the way, Gianna says, is the value of being true to herself. Coming out as a lesbian was a key step in that direction. “It was pretty tough I would say in the beginning because I only came out to my parents and no one else knew, and then I was outed, so then I was like, okay, it's now time to be myself and really move forward in that direction,” she says. “And I think it's important because it's helped me become a better athlete and person, just being myself.”
She describes her struggles with mental health before she came out and says there was a time during the COVID pandemic when she didn’t even want to pick up a tennis racquet. Through journaling, meditation and yoga, she learned to love herself and embrace her sport again.
Today, she says, being her true self and helping others to embrace their true selves is a big motivator. “So I just recently made a video that just basically talks about being myself, and it was hard for me to be myself,” she explains. “And I want to promote to be yourself always no matter what, because I think a lot of people miss that. They want to please other people and do what they're supposed to, and my motto was like, it's okay to be yourself and do what you want to do.”
Today, she says, being her true self and helping others to embrace their true selves is a big motivator. “So I just recently made a video that just basically talks about being myself, and it was hard for me to be myself,” she explains. “And I want to promote to be yourself always no matter what, because I think a lot of people miss that. They want to please other people and do what they're supposed to, and my motto was like, it's okay to be yourself and do what you want to do.”

Monday May 22, 2023

In this episode of Zone In, Rayquan Smith, track star at Norfolk State and the 2022 Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) Hustle Award winner, sits down with hosts Kayvon Thibodeaux (former Oregon Duck and current New York Giant) and Chase Griffin (UCLA quarterback and two-time NIL Athlete of the Year). The three discuss Rayquan’s NIL deals – which number more than 80, including partnerships with Bodyarmor, Arby's and Champs Sports.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) vs. Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs)
Rayquan and Kayvon share their different college experiences – Rayquan at the historically Black Norfolk State University and Kayvon at the predominantly White University of Oregon. Kayvon describes his time at Oregon as a great educational experience and an overall great time, but he adds that there was “a feeling” that came with being the only African American student in the class: “A certain feeling of guilt or remorse because I was only adequate enough because of what I did on the field.”
Meanwhile, Rayquan says he chose Norfolk State because he thought a smaller school would help him focus on his academics – and he was intrigued by the idea of an HBCU and “being around your own kind every day.” He tells Kayvon that today he has no doubt he made the right decision.
The king of NIL
Being at an HBCU rather than a PWI also had ramifications in the emerging world of NIL. When the Supreme Court ruling on NIL came down, the pipelines were already in place for athletes from elite PWIs to begin earning money for their likenesses. But at a lesser-known school like Norfolk State, Rayquan had to do more on his own. He says he learned how to be a go-getter from both his mom and his dad (who died when he was 12), and when the NIL policy changed on July 21, 2021, he was ready to hustle.
“I wrote a form, sent it to 100 companies, then I went to sleep,” he remembers. “I woke back up and I see three companies responded back. The week after that, I signed with an agent. I knew the time was ready, I could trust him. And once I signed with him July 14, everything took off.”
Rayquan was already a proficient content creator with profiles across social media channels. And then one day on Twitter, someone tweeted about him, “Yo, this dude is really the King of NIL. He got 66 deals.” Rayquan says he took a quick screenshot, sent it to his agent, and said, “Look, we got to take advantage of this right now before anybody else takes it." Before long he was the acknowledged King of NIL. In 2022, he won the NIL Hustle Award.
Success, money and keeping it going
Chase, Kayvon and Rayquan also discuss the logistics of achieving and maintaining financial success through NIL deals. Chase describes how one of the key factors is that the deals are mutually beneficial to the companies and the athletes. “I think that's the best part about NIL,” he says. “As more brands invest in it, then they'll see more return on investment. As long as athletes keep hustling and keep in mind that they add value to everything that they're in, then we can grow this market and everyone else can [benefit].”
All three agree that NIL laws offers a unique opportunity for athletes and other black community members to grow and pass down wealth. And the idea of helping others to benefit is a driving force for Rayquan – one he hopes to continue as he moves forward.
“What's next for me is I'm moving towards a NIL consulter,” he says. “I feel like I have more value [there] with helping people. The NIL, that's cool getting deals and everything, but I think it's way bigger than that. I want to help other people get deals. I want to teach them the sauce that I learned for myself. I want to teach them the aspect, the business side, the content creation side, the social media side, the financial side. I want to show them all the sides so they can be successful too.”
Full transcript here 

Navigating the NIL Landscape

Thursday May 11, 2023

Thursday May 11, 2023

When a 2020 Supreme Court ruling allowed college athletes to finally earn money for their name, image, and likeness (NIL), many star players suddenly found themselves flooded with sponsorship offers and brand deals – and new potential pitfalls. In this episode of Zone In, hosts Kayvon Thibodeaux and Chase Griffin discuss navigating this new territory, and offer tips on personal branding, creating a support team and lifetime wealth planning.
Earning money beyond athletics
Kayvon played football at the University of Oregon and currently plays for the New York Giants in the NFL. The NIL decision happened when he was in his third year at Oregon, and he describes his time as a football star at his high school and first years of college before NIL as “a time of using.” He says there were hundreds of videos of him on YouTube that people were making money off of. “And there was never even a thought or an idea of me getting paid,” Kayvon says. “And at the time I didn't even know someone was getting paid.” When he started making money from sponsorships after NIL, he says, it was scary. “You see this number in your bank account go up and it's like, okay, well now what?”
Chase is a quarterback for UCLA and a two-time NIL Athlete of the Year. Before college, he was a superstar in the Friday Night Lights of Texas high school football, and like Kayvon, he recalls others making money off him. “I always had the responsibility of representing something larger than myself, where I represented my town, and then brands started coming in early,” he says. “I just wasn't being paid for it.” He says his goal is to build wealth for his family, and mastering NIL is just one tool for doing that.
Getting started: Work with brands that fit you
Chase and Kayvon agree that one of the challenges that student athletes face with NIL is choosing which opportunities to pursue. It can be tempting for young athletes to say yes to every opportunity, but not all are a good fit. Chase says he looks for brands that match up with his values. “That's personal values, economic value, and then empowerment and community value,” he says. “Where every single brand I go into, I define myself as a believer, a winner, and provider. That's my brand. I look to partner with other brands that are about those same values.”
Kayvon says he looks for relationships that are mutually beneficial. He wants to work with brands that reflect how he wants to be seen. “You don't want to dilute who you are. You don't want to dilute the brand of yourself – your name, image, and likeness, right? You want to keep your story the same.” When athletes ask him for advice, he tells them to pick five to 10 companies that they would want to work for and then research those companies’ brands and culture to determine if they would be a good match.
Managing wealth: Seek knowledge and expertise
Kayvon and Chase also agree on the importance of prioritizing learning as much as they can about NIL and about money management. Kayvon describes the early days of NIL as a “feeding frenzy” in which many companies wanted a piece of the money to be made, and students were left to figure it out on their own. “They brought us to water, but they didn’t teach us how to fish,” he explains. He says that’s why it’s so important for students to educate themselves – and to seek mentors who can help them achieve their goals.
Chase agrees that student athletes can be put at a disadvantage and says there are many systems set up to strip athletes of their value. So learning as much as they can and finding experts to act as mentors is key. And that’s especially important when it comes to wealth management. “If you have some money, there are going to be people who are going to be trying to take it away from you and there are going to be people who are trying to help you grow it,” he says. “You always have to find the latter.”
At the end of the day, both athletes agree that being smart with saving and spending is key, because, as many mentors have advised Kayvon over the years: “you can't out-invest bad spending habits.”
Full transcript here 

Zone In: Season 1 Trailer

Thursday May 11, 2023

Thursday May 11, 2023

Welcome to Zone In, a podcast that explores the importance of financial health through the lens of college athletes, especially as they grapple with the implications of NIL (name, image and likeness) laws. In 2021 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA could not prevent student athletes from using their celebrity to receive some forms of compensation. For athletes, this has opened the door to sponsorship opportunities, brand deals and potentially life-changing amounts of wealth. Over the next six episodes, UCLA quarterback Chase Griffin and New York Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux will be joined by some of the most exciting names in the collegiate athletics to discuss their financial experience, exploring everything from financial health and literacy to brand association, creating a support team, boundary creation and building generational wealth.


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