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New NIL Rules: How social media savvy NCAA Athletes and Brands Can Maximize Profits

After years of social and political push, NCAA athletes can now make money from their name, image, and likeness (also known as NIL) without losing eligibility.

This historic lift of NCAA restrictions means that college athletes can now monetize their status through the form of advertisements, product endorsements, brand partnerships, public appearances, business ventures, and much more.

We think it’s about time!

College athletics are a $14 billion industry, with coaches like Nick Saban earning close to $10 million a year. However, until July 1, 2021, athletes were strictly prohibited from profiting off their NILs.

Now, we’re all in store for some huge changes. First, let’s break down the basics.

What are NIL rights?

Name, image, and likeness rights are also known as an individual’s right to publicity. For athletes, this can mean anything from selling merchandise to being paid for public speaking at an event.

However, allowing college athletes to sell their rights to NIL does not mean that schools can now pay their athletes. Along with reiterating this long-standing rule, many other restrictions come with the new NIL rules.

As of now, there is no federal law stating universal NIL rules. So until Congress can pass one, NIL rules are left up to individual schools.

Some universities have restricted the use of school logos in any athlete NIL deals. Others have prohibited athletes from endorsing any alcohol, tobacco, or gambling products.

Athletes also have to consider existing team partnerships when making NIL deals. That means if their team is sponsored by Gatorade, they can’t endorse Powerade during games.

Clearly, athletes have a lot to think about when seeking brand deals or business ventures, and it can be confusing right now. That’s why many athletes are signing with marketing and public relations agencies dedicated to knowing the rules and maximizing NIL brand exposure.

Now that we’ve gone through the basics of the new NIL changes, let’s get into why this is such a game-changing decision.

What does this mean for athletes and brands?

Many athletes have already started to profit from NIL deals.

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix partnered with Milo’s Tea.

Hanna and Haley Cavinder, twins and Fresno State basketball stars, are now spokeswomen for Boost Mobile. The Cavinders have also secured a brand partnership with Six Star Pro Nutrition. How? The sisters used an online marketing platform to help them set up and secure the deals.

However, partnerships aren’t the only market the twins can tap into.

Estimates say that the Cavinder sisters could make more than $167K per year from social media posts alone. With 3.4 million followers on Tik Tok and over 260K followers each on Instagram, these athletes already have a platform built for themselves. The only difference is, now they can actually monetize their accounts!

While many people’s first thought for monetization may be star football and men’s basketball players, the ability to monetize social media accounts opens up doors for all athletes - transcending gender, age, race and sport.

A recent study found that even though women college athletes receive less than 4% of all coverage in traditional media channels, the median male and female college athletes have similar numbers of social media followers.

This means that women and other athletes who don’t get much traditional coverage will create more opportunities for themselves.

In fact, The Guardian expects LSU’s gymnast Olivia Dunne to be “the highest earner in the initial stages.” Dunne has more followers than any other active NCAA athlete on Instagram and Tik Tok.

These athletes highlight that social media followers and engagement are crucial to success in leveraging NIL online. Not every athlete has a fanbase of 3 million online, though. This is where brands and marketers come into play!

Athletes can hire marketing consultants and digital media agencies to grow an audience and build their brand online.

How can an athlete or brand get connected and start making money?

With so many deals already popping up and brands on the search for partnerships, now is the time for both athletes and brands to take NIL opportunities seriously.

For athletes, boosting their social presence can take their NIL opportunities to the next level. For brands, using an athlete’s NIL can create brand awareness and recognition.

Here are our top tips to get started:

1. Research online

If you’re looking to team up with an athlete, check and see what social presence they’ve already built. If you’re an athlete looking to team up with a brand, look and see what their brand is about. You’ll want to make sure your values align, and you’ll also want to see if they’ll be able to treat you like a priority.

2. Get clear on what you want

Do you want to boost your social presence? Do you want to build your personal brand? Do you want help finding brand deals? Get clear on exactly what you want so that you can relay that to your prospective brand or athlete!

3. Reach out

The easiest way to reach people in this day and age is social media! Take advantage of the fact that we live in a digital world and try to make those personal connections online.

The bottom line

The new NCAA NIL rules are a monumental change -

affecting the potential of athletes, brands, and the influencer and marketing industries.

However, potential isn’t profitable if you don’t take the right steps.

As an agency specializing in creating brand awareness and connecting your message with audiences, we know what steps you need to take.

If you’re an NCAA athlete looking to boost their online reach or a brand seeking to connect with athletes, reach out to us here at Downfield Media to get started. Let us help you reach your potential!


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