LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 30, 2021) — One University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information (CI) alumna is proving she’s “not just a graphic designer” by using her skills to help elevate collegiate athletes in a wave of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) legislation.
Erin Harville, a 2018 integrated strategic communication (ISC) graduate, came to UK looking for something outside the box. With the curiosity to pick up a diverse skill set and the drive to add to the pool of Black creatives in the professional world, she landed in ISC, an undergraduate program she said was scarcely available in her home state of Georgia.
“I was a person that wanted to do a little bit of everything but have one specific focus, and that was the only program that was like ‘this is how we can teach you everything, and you get to choose where you want to go and how you build your own path,'" Harville said.
And the path that Harville chose was sports. Though she had always been part of the athletic world, it wasn’t until her internship with UK Athletics in her junior year that she realized the scope of creative opportunities. Branding herself as a “sports creative and visual strategist,” she has set her sights on becoming a creative officer.
While serving as a creative services student intern in UK Athletics’ in-house creative department, Harville used the campaign skills she learned from CI to create digital and print campaigns for several of UK’s 22 varsity teams. This work expanded as she transitioned into the role of creative services assistant upon graduating, leading her to provide more creative direction, collaborate with different departments, mentor interns and manage projects. All this experience is why Harville calls UK Athletics “the best breeding ground for sports, ever.”
“It’s almost like the Harvard of athletics,” Harville said. “If you want to understand how things operate and what’s the right way to operate, that’s exactly what you’ll get from being under that umbrella.”
Her time working for UK Athletics has helped her seamlessly transition into the same role at the University of Oregon’s athletic department while she pursues her MBA at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. She works with Senior Associate Athletic Director Lisa Peterson, a former UK Athletics employee who worked in various roles over an eight-year career. Peterson and current UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens worked under UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, and Harville said this allowed her caliber of work to be recognized and understood.
Joining UO also introduced Harville to INFLCR, a platform for sports teams to store, track and deliver content across their networks. UK was INFLCR’s first client, using the platform for photo and video content. Now, however, Harville is working with the platform to promote a wave of new legislation across the nation.
The NCAA recently adopted an interim policy that allows collegiate athletes to profit from their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). In 2019, California was the first state to pass an NIL bill that would allow athletes to begin to profit from NIL in 2023. Several states followed suit, including Kentucky via executive order to allow athletes to make money from NIL.
Leading up to the legislative rollout, Harville was hard at work for INFLCR, data mining and content creating to help the over 7,000 collegiate athletes on the platform take advantage of the new legislation. Now, she’s continuing her freelance work with INFLCR to provide written content and graphics for the social media strategies she creates.
“This is a new era for student-athletes and there is so much to navigate, but I am glad that I am on the forefront of this and looking forward to seeing what the future holds for NIL,” Harville said.
INFLCR is also partnering with Navigate, an advisor to leading brands and organizations in sports and entertainment, to provide athletes with their estimated fair market values and education to guide them through their NIL rights. Harville believes educating and advocating for athletes is the best way to prepare them for their post-playing careers, helping them to become fully realized people who can use their fame for good. Not only could athletes profit off sponsorships or autograph signings, but they could also become the faces of their nonathletic passions like the WNBA was for social justice in 2020.
“I just think it’s the perfect time to sit here and shake the table and let people realize — use your voice and use your platform for change,” Harville said. “It’s all about the best decisions that you can make while you’re living in the spotlight, because once that dims down, what do you do?”
For current students, athletes or not, Harville advised taking advantage of all that UK has to offer, whether that’s free software or advice from professors. After all, she credits her UK connections for helping her get where she’s at today.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.