Events like the embody ‘March Madness’ and other similar events held throughout the college sports are eye-catchy events in nature that draw student-athletes towards it. Maddy or any other sportsperson who achieved the level of popularity via a single high point or sustained prominence cannot completely make most of those types of moments of influence for personal financial gain. Those rules only changed in the amateur sports landscape that altered the decision.
In 2021, on 1st July, NCAA social media rules permitted student-athletes at the NCAA colleges and the universities to gain from the NIL (Name, Image & Likeness) opportunities; it was a decision that altered the amateur sports arena. Such changes in the NCAA NIL rules will not just change the amateur sports arena & alter the rules surrounding recruiting inducements, it would also transform how the marketing strategists make most of the college athletes and their lovely personalities/performances for the social media programs.
Thus, why is the open door for the college athletes to monetize on their name considered a big boon for the brands and who makes most of such social media influencer programs? There are many collegiate athletic programs with inbuilt audiences namely national TV broadcasts, one of the alumni that spans through generations and connects to the generation Z via their students. The natural affinity of such audiences furnishes the marketers with what influencers can i.e. an intersection of the audiences. This type of profound reach to the pre-primed groups of the audience has become highly appealing in case the student-athlete has some structured robust social media plan on their personal media account.
The potential for the brand to transform such moments into business is an outcome of leveraging moments to drive in the business outcomes, which needs both discretion and agility. Listed below are 5 moves, which would attract marketers:
Virality now is a commodity
Just imagine how Maddy could have gotten a financial gain, additionally to his newfound fame, in case he moved ahead with the same shot in the 2021’s NIL (name, image & likeness) rules. Note that game-winning play, as well as jaw-dropping highlights, can anytime go viral. Similarly, awkward, or funny moments can also foster opportunities for the sportsperson to capitalize on influencer deals. More and more prominent brands with huge budgets have the upper hand for such significant moments. As per the same accord, it would be challenging for the brands to stay to react adeptly to such viral moments.
Authenticity stays critical
As in any of the partnerships, brands should review the association via the authenticity lens and effectively identify and partner with student-athletes who align well with brand voice, identity, and values.
While it is simple to look at more prominent programs as well as opportunities in front of the men’s basketball and football players, NIL rules too open doors for student-athletes to a lesser popular Olympic sport such as golf, soccer, swimming, volleyball, softball, field, track etc. Athletes in such sports might prove to be a precise fit & provide the brands with high value. NCAA social media rules can also become a great platform to democratize women’s sports just by giving these sportspeople more visibility and prominence to their sports.
Short term impact vs. Long term sustainability
During the US track & field championships around June, player Christina Clemons made big headlines for 2 major reasons; firstly, she qualified for Tokyo Olympic Games in 100-meter hurdles, however, her jewellery choice overshadowed her achievement. Christina completed her 3rd and qualified on fashioning a pair of Ranch Doritos earrings.
While Christina is not a student, this specific story illustrates the dilemma many brands would face at the time of partnering with student-athletes. A lot of prominent brands can capitalize on the brief and short-term opportunities at the same time. Contrarily budget-conscious brands might look at investing in a long-term approach, which is sustained beyond 4 years an athlete would spend on the campus.
Latter would need more diligence upfront at the time of assessing a potential alignment in consideration to post-college career motives. For instance, a popular player pursuing a highly advanced medical degree might attract pharmaceutical marketers. A sportsperson majoring in finance can attract companies such as CashApp, which was one of the first companies to sign the deal when NCAA social media rules came into effect.
Sportsmen who cross verticals
Sportsmen usually ranging between the age groups of 18 and 24 today grow up with social media. Many even built their target audience through Instagram, YouTube, and other alternative websites such as Twitch. Most pursued sportsperson would be those who are in addition to forming a sport following and have a great audience with numerous interests such as fashion, music, trick shots, gaming etc.