It’s no secret that there are a wide variety of ways to get sponsored in sports. Athletes can make money by endorsing products on their social media, appearing in advertisements, and even signing deals with companies that want to hire them as spokespeople. Companies and brands of all sizes are looking to work with athletes at all levels, especially college athletes now that college NIL is a reality. So, if you’re an athlete, where should you start? And which brands are the best potential sponsors to work with?
Nike and Gatorade are two humongous brands that often lean on athletes for endorsements and partnerships. And it makes sense—these are products that are regularly used by athletes at even the highest levels. But you don’t need to set your sights on the Nikes and Gatorades of the product world if you’re looking for college athlete sponsorship opportunities.
There are tons of local businesses and companies looking to sponsor college athletes. And with an online marketplace for athletes and brands like Icon Source, they’re becoming easier than ever to find.
In addition to national brands, college athletes should also consider partnering with local businesses. Local businesses are often looking for ways to support their community, and partnering with a college athlete can be a great way to do that. Some examples of local businesses that college athletes might want to consider partnering with include local fitness studios, sports equipment stores, and even restaurants or coffee shops.
Ultimately, the best brands and local businesses for college athletes to partner with will depend on the individual athlete and their goals. Some athletes might be more interested in working with national brands that can provide a larger platform and more resources, while others might prefer to support their local community by partnering with smaller businesses. It’s important for college athletes to carefully consider their options and choose the partnerships that align with their personal values and goals.
The NIL landscape is still very much the wild west in terms of best practices and how to navigate scoring endorsement deals. One way to get things going is by checking out which brands even offer college athlete sponsorship opportunities.
These are “the big guys.” They’re often looking for elite athletes with national or international recognition to represent their brand, and they’ll pay you accordingly. However, this is not something that happens overnight. It takes years of hard work to get noticed by these companies, and even then, it’s still no guarantee that they’ll ask you to sign on as their spokesperson or brand ambassador.
Example: Red Bull
Thanks in part to some exciting marketing campaigns and sponsored live stunts, Red Bull has become a worldwide phenomenon. Red Bull’s philosophy is to provide wings to amazing individuals to accomplish their dreams whether it is in competitive sport, or through creative video and photo content projects. They sponsor athletes, musicians, and other performers, as well as events such as Red Bull Rampage and Red Bull Straight Rhythm. The company also has professional racing teams like their own F1 team and a lot of the world’s top downhill mountain bike riders. Red Bull lists the current individual athletes that they sponsor here.
Local brands are smaller companies that may be looking to take a more geotargeted approach. Maybe they’re in your hometown or a town adjacent to the college you play at. They’re not necessarily looking for someone who can represent them on a national level, but they are interested in teaming up with someone that people in the area will recognize. They might even just want your face on some ads or offer some products for an Instagram post—you have to look into each situation individually.
Example: Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar
Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar is a regional restaurant chain with restaurants scattered across the East Coast. Once NIL for college athletes became allowed, they quickly launched Shuckin’ Shack Athletics, their brand ambassador program that sponsors the hometown heroes and “underdog” athletes of college sports. Shuckin’ Shack recruited their team of “Shackletes” using the Icon Source platform.
Here are some more brands that are making deals through Icon Source:
College athletes have a lot of options when it comes to partnering with brands and local businesses for sponsorships. National brands like Red Bull, Crocs, and Boost Mobile can provide a great platform for athletes to amplify their brand, while local businesses can offer the opportunity to support the community and build relationships with local organizations. Ultimately, the best brands and local businesses for college athletes will depend on the individual athlete and their goals.Looking for a place to start? Create an athlete profile on Icon Source and start browsing college athlete sponsorship opportunities today!