Ohio State University running back TreVeyon Henderson is among the top football players in the country, but at Ricart Automotive Group he's just one of the "interns."
Henderson, several of his teammates and other Ohio State athletes star in a series of advertisements that show them fetching coffee, pushing cars and being silly with group President Rick Ricart.
The "Rick's Interns" videos are a byproduct of the NCAA's June 2021 decision to allow student athletes to profit from the use of their name and image. Since then, Ricart Automotive and many other dealerships have begun leveraging the star power of collegiate sports standouts through promotional deals and compensating them in a variety of ways that previously would have broken NCAA rules.
Athletes across the country are getting free access to vehicles and being paid in some instances for appearing in commercials or wearing clothing with dealership branding.
The "name, image and likeness" policy change has opened huge marketing doors for dealerships in states such as Alabama, Iowa and Kansas, home to rabid college sports fan bases but no major pro teams.
In central Ohio, Buckeye die-hards are everywhere, yet the players they idolize had been off limits in ads until now.
"It's tough today with TV advertising, the world of social media, all of the streaming services. We have to be more creative than ever, so wherever our ads are placed, they really have [to have an] impactful angle to get people's attention," Ricart told Automotive News. "The biggest kind of celebrities in Columbus, Ohio, today are the stars of the Ohio State sports programs."
Ricart Automotive, which has multiple large dealerships in Columbus, has inked nearly 20 name, image and likeness deals with Ohio State athletes and compensates them in numerous ways. Some get cash for doing promotions. Others get leases on vehicles, though they have to cover insurance and fuel.
Henderson originally picked out a Chevrolet Camaro, but he swapped it for a Genesis GV70 crossover after a few months when he realized the rear-wheel-drive pony car wasn't a good fit for Ohio winters.