At the beginning of July, the NCAA introduced its NIL policy which allows college athletes to monetize off their name, image and likeness as long as they abide by state laws and NCAA regulations. It was a deal athletes have long been advocating for and opens up the potential for millions of dollars worth of influencer and endorsement deals.
These athletes—many of whom are building their personal brands on social media with sizeable followings—are already starting to see brand deals roll in. Unilever has launched a $5 million five-year commitment to work with a diverse group of college athletes, and brands like Barstool Sports, Boost Mobile and GoPuff are securing deals and sponsoring athletes. This new line of influencers are also selling their own clothing lines or signing up for platforms like Cameo.
As brands start to navigate the new rules and how they can go about partnering with some of the new talent, Santa Monica-based influencer and social video agency Reach, which works with brands like Nestle and Clorox, compiled a list of 10 NCAA athletes brands should consider partnering with across various sports based on their social media presence. The below list not only takes into consideration influencer potential like follower count, engagement rates and quality of content—but also athletes who have interests beyond sports, the ability to become influential and those who let their audience know get to know them as people. Reach also looked at risk factors like the odds that players say or do something that would put brands on the defensive.
“NIL is already proving that NCAA athletes don’t need to be marquee players or on the pro fast track to ink lucrative deals,” says Gabe Gordon, managing partner at Reach Agency. “The overall importance of connecting with these types of creators is that NIL provides brands with ready-made inroads to access more existing communities and fans with deeper, more personal and emotional ties—there’s more ways to engineer the desired audience.”