Even though it isn’t that old of a concept, brand marketing through athletes sometimes feels like a tale as old as time. From Michael Jordan’s transcendent shoe phenomenon, to the love story of Nike and the Williams sisters circa 2003, these powerful brand partnerships have come to define more of what we know about these brands than we sometimes even realize.
With recent legislation legalizing collegiate athletes profiting off of their name, image, and likeness (NIL), these types of incredibly influential partnerships have become even more accessible for smaller brands and lesser-known collegiate athletes as well.
And these athletic endorsements bring with them a world of opportunity at relatively little cost to these smaller brands. And who doesn’t like minimal effort for maximal return? But before we jump into the benefits of athletic endorsements and NIL partnerships, let’s set a few definitions straight.
What Does NIL Mean?
‘NIL’ stands for ‘name, image, and likeness’, and it’s meant to be an encapsulating term used to refer to an athlete’s persona, brand, and identity. Although there were initially pushbacks about NIL, NCAA policy now allows college-level athletes to accept compensation from brands that want to work with them as a part of their marketing strategies.
On June 21, 2021, the Supreme Court of the US made a unanimous (9-0) decision in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston to allow NIL sponsorships to take place.
Since then, it has been a competition of sorts between different states to create and pass NIL bills in order to stay competitive in the collegiate sphere. Icon Source has pages that detail each state NIL bill that has passed, as well as the programs each major school has in place to prepare their athletes to work with brands. Hop on over to check it out, or stick with us here. Either is cool with us.
What is an NIL Sponsorship?
Last on our list of terms to define is ‘NIL sponsorship’, or the agreement that forms between a brand and an athlete when a brand wants to leverage an athlete’s NIL for their marketing strategy, and an athlete consents to working with a brand.
But let’s jump in to the benefits brands can enjoy from athletic endorsements and NIL partnerships. NIL deals are such a good marketing tactic that they might just be the crowning jewel in your business’s marketing strategy next quarter.
Every season, we rally around different teams from different schools in different states across the country. Fanbases are often loyal to the point of zealous, and that’s exactly what makes athlete endorsements powerful: they provide access to a group of people that trust their recommendations.
If you can get your product or brand into the hands of an athlete, chances are you’re getting your product into many more hands as well. Since athletes’ followers admire them, they often want to be like them, and therefore would be more inclined to purchase something they saw their favorite athlete using or wearing.
There is no world in which people would say the accomplishments of any athlete, collegiate or professional, weren’t at least a little impressive. An image of an athlete wearing your brand, or sporting your product would play on that positive association and, as a result, may increase consumer’s trust of your brand.
The more positive exposure you can get for your brand, the more consumers may trust and want to use and/or buy from your brand. We can’t forget that trends emanate from individuals we admire or think have a cool “vibe”, and athletes have that air of confidence and power that can quickly popularize a trend, product, or label.
This is a benefit particular to smaller-time, collegiate athletes, but it’s power is not to be underestimated.
College athletes with smaller followings, mostly composed of their fellow students at their university, have a more intimate relationship with their followers. This means that if they were to post about a brand or a product, their followers would trust them more readily.
The precision of the reach of these athletes would benefit a regional targeted marketing strategy and make it easier to execute; just seek out an NIL partnership with a student athlete in your desired region or from a certain region, and watch your engagement go up in all the right places.
Cost per acquisition is a unit economics term referring to the amount of money a company spends on average acquiring one customer. Athletic endorsements, especially smaller ones, have low CPAs on average.
And this makes sense if you think about it; NIL sponsorships are low-cost, relatively speaking, because just one social media post reaches thousands of people. Consider the pay off from shipping an athlete some free products and having them post about them. A single free item, discount, what have you, could lead to thousands of dollars in resulting revenue from their followers purchasing from your brand because of that NIL partnership.
This is a hugely beneficial aspect of athletic endorsements. Most athletes have social media and many loyal followers interested in their lives. If an athlete posts about your company or product, you get a boost that would be difficult to replicate if it weren’t for the power of the athlete’s platform.
Therefore, getting an athlete to make a post about your brand is a great way to get more exposure on social platforms without hiring a social media manager to consistently post on your brand’s account.
How Can I Get an NIL Partnership?
There are 460,000 NCAA student-athletes out there, and even more pro-athletes. Knowing where to start building a strategy for NIL sponsorships can be confusing and difficult. Reach out to Icon Source to get access to a safe and easy-to-use virtual marketplace for meeting student and pro athletes.
About Icon Source
Icon Source was founded in 2018 by Chase Garrett, the former Athlete Marketing Manager at Red Bull. Icon Source is now leading the way in the realm of NIL sponsorships, helping athletes make the most of their NIL, and partnering with brands to ensure the creation of mutually beneficial relationships between athletes and companies.
Want to start leveraging NIL sponsorships and capitalizing on athletic endorsements right now? Sign up at Icon Source to get started today.