The world of college athletics is still reverberating with excitement and opportunity since the NCAA’s rule changes making it possible for athletes to sign NIL deals and profit off of their own image. This new frontier of influencer marketing is still in its infancy, but nevertheless, brands and athletes alike are jumping on the opportunity to sign NIL endorsement deals and grow their respective brands.
But how do athletic endorsements at the collegiate level compare with those at the professional level?
To put some things into perspective, the top 50 highest-paid professional athletes in 2021 raked in just over $1 billion strictly from endorsement deals and other off-field endeavors.
That’s a lot of bread.
While the college athletic endorsements market shouldn’t be expected to ever quite catch up to this well-established behemoth of an industry, this does generate excitement around the amazing possibilities for athletes looking to sprint, dive, or slide into the world of NIL sponsorship. Whether you’re a high school senior that just committed to a college or university for sports, or an NCAA All-American stud with professional teams already starting to blow up your phone, engaging in collegiate sponsorship deals can prepare you extremely well for the stage of your career that comes after college.
When it’s all said and done, you’ll want to ask yourself the question, “How has my time in college shaped me to be successful beyond?” Here’s how you can ensure that you position yourself adequately for your career after college.
The early bird (or Bulldog/Tiger/Bear) gets the worm. If you’re an athlete looking to grow your own personal brand, you should immediately begin seeking out sponsorships and opportunities with local brands and businesses. Dipping your toe in athletic endorsements will not only put you in the spotlight and get some extra cash in your pocket—it will also prepare you for your endeavors after your collegiate career comes to an end.
The earlier you get involved, the sooner you can start building your personal brand. Branding yourself as a micro-influencer is a great way to catch the attention of local brands looking to reach more geo-targeted audiences through athlete influencers with a familiar name in town. As you discover and take advantage of more marketing opportunities, you’ll see your portfolio of NIL deals steadily grow. This will unlock new, bigger, better opportunities over time. This could also generate a feedback loop, potentially earning you more followers with each new endorsement and building up your value as an influencer in the eyes of brands.
Build a Following (and Engage)
Your social media presence plays a huge role in your ability to attract NIL endorsements. When it comes to building a following on social media, there are a number of factors you’ll want to consider.
If you’re planning on leveraging your social media for endorsements and brand marketing, these are some of the most important questions you must ask yourself. Above all else, you want to remain authentic. Follow people and brands that align with your interests and make sure you engage with them. Engagement can simply consist of liking posts, replying in the comments, and reposting others’ content.
Perfect Your Craft on the Field
While working on your social media game, make sure you don’t lose sight of how you got where you are to begin with. The world of NIL sponsorship is exciting, but your influence is heavily dependent on your ability to perform your best on the field.
Alabama quarterback and 2021 Heisman winner Bryce Young didn’t secure $1 million in endorsement deals because of his social media posts; he became a household name because of his exceptional play. Focusing on your craft is essential if you want to remain relevant in your community and lock down athletic endorsements.
Excel in Your Community
Off the field, it’s important to stay engaged in your community if you want to continue to build your brand. Whether it’s through NIL sponsorship or community service, find opportunities to rub elbows with members of your community. Doing so will strengthen your foundation as an athlete influencer and show potential business partners that you’re a staple in your community and a voice that resonates with members of that community.
Feel free to get creative with how you engage. Take notes from UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett, who spent an afternoon working the drive-thru at Raising Cane’s in Athens. Students and local Bulldog fans flocked to the location, snapping Instagram stories and cracking jokes with “The Mailman” himself.
Capitalize on Your Brand
Thousands of businesses are looking to sign athlete influencers to meaningful NIL deals to create meaningful relationships and expand their audiences. Now is the time to take advantage of NIL sponsorship and leverage your personal brand to create opportunities for yourself and your family.
As your portfolio of endorsements grows, you’ll only become more valuable to the brands seeking influencer athletes. While it may seem like brands are shopping for the perfect athletes to partner with, the power will ultimately fall in your hands as you generate inherent value as a name and face for brands.
How Athletic Endorsements Prepare You for the Future
Doing all of these things will work wonders in terms of preparing you for life beyond the stage of college athletics. Getting involved with NIL endorsements in college will essentially provide a crash course for navigating the business world, allowing you to master the process of securing the right deals with the right brands.
If you plan on using your personal brand to generate business after you graduate college (be it as an athlete or not), it’s essential that you construct that foundation right now. It largely falls on your shoulders to manage your social media, work hard on the field, and be an active member of your community.
When it comes to securing athletic endorsements and NIL sponsorships, we can help with that.
Icon Source is a platform created for athletes by athletes. We connect brands and athletes at all levels to facilitate meaningful partnerships that create opportunities for everyone involved. Sign up today and take control of your personal brand. Welcome to the new era of athletic endorsements.