Marketing Agency

How College Athletes Are Getting Paid From NIL Endorsement Deals

How College Athletes Are Getting Paid From NIL Endorsement Deals
Written by publishing team

  • In 2021, student-athletes received the right to earn money from their names, photos and the like.
  • Athletes, universities and brands have spent months learning the best way to navigate the new world of NIL.
  • Here’s a breakdown of Insider’s recent coverage of student-athlete marketing and NIL activism.

On July 1, after a decades-long battle, student-athletes across the country earned the right to make money from their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) thanks to a wave of new state laws and a change in NCAA policy.

What happened next was a frenzy of student-athletes, small businesses, national brands, and start-ups looking to make money.

Some athletes in widely followed sports have scored deals worth five or six figures. But many of the 460,000+ student-athletes across the United States have ended up working with local businesses, such as restaurants, participating in one-off marketing campaigns with bigger brands, or receiving free products, gift cards, or payments. Small cash, rather than big paydays, for their NIL promotions.

The attacking soldier from the University of Nebraska poses with a red-shirted burrito at Muchachos.

University of Nebraska football players pose with burritos in a brand partnership with local restaurant Muchachos.

Nick Mystas.


In addition to brand deals, Student Athletes run branded training clinics and get paid for appearances and autographs.

Unlike professional influencers, college athletes tend to have a small audience on social media. In the world of influencers, these athletes would be categorized as “micro” (less than 100,000 followers overall) or “nano” (under 10,000 overall) – a growing area of ​​focus for marketers.

“You don’t have to have 40,000 followers or even 10,000 or 5,000 followers to take advantage of these [NIL] “These little deals, while they may be small in terms of monetary value, can go a very long way for these student athletes,” Christopher Umueller, CEO of Sports Marketing and Brand Development, FanWord, told Insider. Dollars here and there can have a huge impact on some of these young men and women.”

Read more about how student-athletes with little social media are capitalizing on the Nile’s gold rush

One company turned to nano-


Impact on Marketing

Its first student sports campaign was The Vitamin Shoppe, which recruited 14 college athletes for the campaign.

The company worked with sports marketing firm OpenSponsorship to identify 14 student-athletes across a wide range of sports, from golf and cross country to volleyball and cheerleading. All the athletes had less than 10,000 followers on Instagram.

Each athlete got $100 of free products, including a combination of whey and plant protein, a real sports performance supplement, and a bottle of shakes, in exchange for promoting the brand on social media.

“The trend of micro influencers has become popular because when you get people with smaller followers, with smaller networks, the things they promote or suggest seem more real,” Dustin Elliott, senior brand manager at The Vitamin Shoppe, told Insider. .

Read more about how the company boosted its social media engagement by hiring college athletes from specialized sports like golf and cheerleading.

In a few states, even high school athletes are starting to participate in the NIL competition.

Jaden Rashada, a Pittsburg High School quarterback in Pittsburg, California, signed a sponsorship deal with the AIR recruitment app in December.

“It’s better for him to talk about employment from a marketing perspective than someone who has just been through or someone who is currently going through,” James Sackville, founder of AIR, told Insider.

Read more about how a high school soccer star landed his first brand sponsorship deal

LSU golfer Hayden White swings a club on a golf course in a purple T-shirt and shorts.

LSU golfer Hayden White recently worked on the NIL campaign for The Vitamin Shoppe.

LSU athletics.


How much do student-athletes earn from NIL

While many schools are tight-lipped about how much their student-athletics earn from NIL activities, in November, the University of Arkansas released data on how much its student-athletics have earned since July 1.

It reported that 140 of its student-athletes had participated in some type of NIL activity, worked with more than 170 companies on at least 300 agreements and earned an average of $4,102. According to the university, football, basketball, softball, and baseball players saw the most NIL deals in Arkansas.

Read more about how student-athletes at the University of Arkansas can benefit from NIL opportunities

Those profits could increase next year, as some brands are already making spending bets on this category for 2022.

More than half of the 300 brand, agency and retail professionals surveyed by retail analytics firm Inmar Intelligence in November said they planned to spend $50,000 to $500,000 on student athletes next year. Only 15% of respondents said they either do not plan to invest in this category or are not yet sure what budget it will be on.

Read detailed responses from the Inmar survey, including how marketers think student athletes will perform in ad campaigns compared to traditional influencers.

Student Athletic Growth Pains

Although some marketers are optimistic about running student sports campaigns in 2022, this category comes with logistical challenges.

Colleges, student-athletes, and brands are still trying to figure out how to navigate a web of state laws and university guidelines about what players are and aren’t allowed to do with their names, photos, and the like.

Some colleges and universities have developed policies to prevent student-athletes from making business deals that would conflict with their lucrative sponsorship contracts.

A deal requiring the athlete to “wear Nike competitor products during team activities – such as practices, competitions, media, team travel, community service, photo sessions, team building activities, etc.” It can violate Ohio rules, for example. The university also said students should not “promote drinks that compete with Coca-Cola on campus.”

“It’s a mess,” Blake Lawrence, CEO of sports marketing platform Opendorse, told Insider in August. “If an adidas school sports student signs a deal with, let’s say, Lululemon to attend a press conference wearing a Lululemon hat and shirt, is that a violation of the team’s contract with Adidas? Those are the things that people want to try to find out.”

Other universities have opposed the Barstool Sports Student Athletic Ambassador Program, telling Insider that the company has not received approval to use its trademarks and logos.

Read more about how colleges are taking steps to limit the deals student-athletes make with brands as they look to protect their own sponsorship

As with any new industry with a variety of regulations, a wave of start-ups and established companies has flocked to help universities, student-athletes and brands alike succeed in the field and avoid mistakes.

Some companies, such as Athliance, focus on helping universities and players deal with NIL education and compliance. Others, like MOGL, are interested in building marketplaces to connect brands with student-athletes.

“People keep saying it’s the Wild West,” said Chase Garrett, CEO of athlete marketing platform Icon Source. “But I think 2022 will be the year of adoption. People have marketing budgets built in. They’re starting to find athletes they think they’ll want to work with. They’re starting to figure out the market value.”

Here is Insider’s list of the top 13 companies that help student athletes make money and shape the future of NIL marketing

About the author

publishing team