When the NCAA’s Name, Image, and Likeness rule, or NIL, came into effect, the floodgates opened to an important new form of influencer marketing. The June 30th change to NIL policy marked a significant reversal on the longstanding rules limiting athletes to profit off their own name, image, or likeness. Now, college athletes can partner with brands, create clothing lines, endorse products, sign paid autographs, and overall profit off the elevated status that comes from college sports.
College athletes can now use their fame to their advantage, and they make for great brand ambassadors. They’re extra renowned in certain regions, often have some level of media training, and are young and talented. Brands have been flocking to athletes in the wake of NIL changes, and some major deals have been made. College athletes are now becoming a crucial part of many companies’ digital marketing strategy. Here is a list of six athletes and brands excelling under the new NIL rule changes.
Bryce Young and Quinn Ewers
Bryce Young and Quinn Ewers are both nationally known quarterbacks who are set to play for powerhouse schools. Young is the starting quarterback at Alabama, and Ewers is an elite recruit in high school who has committed to Ohio State. They both represent the pinnacle of how athletes can benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness.
Bryce Young is nearing $1 million in endorsement deals, with his most lucrative partnership being with CashApp. He also has deals in the memorabilia and trading card space. Ewers has signed a $1.4 million contract with GT Sports Marketing in exchange for autographs. Ewers is the number one prospect for the high-school class of 2022 and has yet to play any sports at the collegiate level.
Antics and controversy aside, Barstool Sports is an early adopter in the new media and social media space, and they jumped into the NIL game right away. While the intricacies of what they intend to do in the space are unclear, Barstool has signed thousands of collegiate athletes to NIL deals.
While Barstool hasn’t said exactly what the athletes would be getting out of the deal, it will likely include merchandise. Barstool has a significant merchandising arm, and creating joint merchandise with prominent athletes would benefit both parties. Barstool is known for its on-the-fly approach to major projects, so we may not know their plan for some time. But they’ve already acquired thousands of athletes as partners, which is a strong start.
Jordan Bohanon is a college basketball player for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and he is an example of the type of player who would be extremely popular in one region but may not be nationally known. He put his reputation in Iowa to work right away, holding a joint event with a firework store in Windsor Heights, Iowa, on the first day NIL rules came into effect. He signed autographs, mingled with fans, and donated shoes for a raffle. These types of regional, small-scale events will be lucrative for athletes across the country.
Bohanon also dropped his own apparel line, which he markets and sells online. Bohanon had long advocated for changes to the NIL ruling, and he has positioned himself to profit nicely from it.
Hayley and Hanna Cavinder
Hayley and Hanna Cavinder are twin sisters that play basketball together for the Fresno State Bulldogs. Their value to brands stretches far beyond that, though. They each have more than 250,000 followers on Instagram, 3.5 million followers on TikTok, and over 65,000 subscribers on Youtube. They are essentially influencers with a powerful platform, which they wouldn’t have been able to monetize under the old NCAA rules. Now, with the new regulations, they are currently cashing in.
The twins signed an agreement, marketed as the first NIL agreement, with Boost Mobile, which could net them up to $3 million. They also signed a major deal with Six Star Pro Nutrition to become brand ambassadors. Although they had to wait a bit, the Cavinder twins are now making life-changing money due to their basketball and social media prowess.
Unilever is a massive multi-billion-dollar corporation producing a wide variety of different consumer goods. Degree Deodorant, a subsidy of Unilever, recently announced an inclusive marketing campaign using 14 athletes from diverse backgrounds with inspiring stories. The athletes range from football and volleyball players to wheelchair basketball and lacrosse players, and they continue to expand their roster of endorsed athletes.
The campaign won’t end just with this current crop of athletes either, though. Degree is planning to dedicate $5 million over the next five years to marketing initiatives using college athletes that inspire and encourage others to break limits.