If you've checked social media or a message board this morning, you've probably heard about Braxton Miller's now deleted Instagram post that appears to be endorsing AdvoCare. In the picture, Braxton appeared with a trainer at Authentik Fitness named Brandon Oshodin, whom Miller has worked with. Oshodin is a distributor for AdvoCare products. But what's AdvoCare, and why should anybody care that Miller appears to be endorsing their products?
AdvoCare is a multi-level marketing company that specializes in selling nutrition, weight loss and sports performance products. You might recognize them as the sponsor of the AdvoCare Texas Bowl. MLM firms employ huge swaths of independent contractors who earn money not just from commissions on their sales, but also on the sales of "downline" distributors, or other contractors who had been trained. So, hypothetically, if a trainer who sells AdvoCare stuff trains and brings on an athlete to also sell AdvoCare products, the trainer would get paid not just from what he sells, but also from what the athlete sells. This is a similar model to corporations like Amway, Cydcor, or Avon. They are often criticized as being pyramid schemes.
Because of what they sell, it would make sense for AdvoCare to want to reach out to NCAA athletes as possible distributors or spokesmen for the products. However, that's against NCAA rules. Here's what the NCAA specifically says about whether players can appear in advertisements:
Bylaw 12.5.2 Nonpermissible - Promotional Activities, Current Enrolled Student-Athletes Bylaw 188.8.131.52 Advertisements and Promotions Subsequent to Enrollment Subsequent to becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual: a. Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind, or b. Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual's use of such product or service.
In case that isn't clear enough, AdvoCare themselves has a document that shows what NCAA athletes (and coaches) can and cannot do with AdvoCare without risking punishment from the NCAA. When it comes to appearing in an advertisement or promoting their goods, the document is pretty clear.
Miller isn't the only person with NCAA ties who has been involved with the product. Former Ohio State strength coach, Eric Lichter, is on the AdvoCare Advisory Board. Cam McDaniel was a distributor for AdvoCare while a running back at Notre Dame. McDaniel maintained NCAA compliance by not using his name, image or likeness to promote the business or business engagement. But Miller until very recently still has a link to an AdvoCare store bearing his name in his Instagram profile:
Miller has since removed the link and the store which previously displayed his name now reads "stayfit forever".
And though Miller has since deleted the Instagram on his own account, as pictured at the top of this article, a re-gram on his trainer's page is joined by a video of Miller with the caption "Putting in work with @braxtonmiller92. He just joined the Authentik X Advocare family we about to take it to another level." could be perceived as being for promotional purposes:
Though there's no indication he's in any way involved with the promotion of AdvoCare, Ohio State running back Bri'onte Dunn was also pictured in one photo with Miller training with Authentik Fitness:
From a high level reading of all of this, it appears that Miller broke NCAA rules. The consequences get more difficult to project. Punishments tend to be contingent on the amount of money involved, but even Miller's name and image being used to promote a product could be construed as a potential secondary violation.
An Ohio State spokesperson told The Lantern's James Grega that the school is "looking into this".