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Name, Image, and Likeness: How Working with Athletes Can Improve Your Reach 

Name, Image, and Likeness: How Working with Athletes Can Improve Your Reach 

For the first time ever, college athletes can make money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). On July 1, the NCAA changed the college sports landscape forever by granting athletes the opportunity to participate in endorsement deals. These deals can have a significant impact on local businesses, especially those located in college towns with passionate fan bases. We’re looking at you, Knoxville business owners! 

Start by taking a look at your social media and influencer game plans. Even if you don’t currently have a strategy deployed, the power of college athletes is undeniable and can provide a real ROI.  

Many athletes start garnering social followings during their recruitment process, before even stepping foot on their college’s campus. Then, once their respective season starts, they make a big play during a game, or become admirable within the community, their social following often picks up. 

Most college athletes have a few thousand followers and would be considered what marketers call “micro-influencers”. Some, however, gain much higher follower counts. UT’s own John Fulkerson and Josiah Jordan James have each captured approximately 20K Instagram followers, receive high levels of social engagement, and are seen as public figures in the community. Partnering with athletes, no matter their follower counts, puts your brand in front of people you might not reach otherwise. Some athletes might even have niched interests or hobbies that could be an authentic fit for your business and brand values – for example, UT wide receiver Grant Frerking is an established businessman outside of football. His personal social media content regarding his multi-million-dollar business would likely fit nicely with a NIL deal with business services and operations company. 

NIL deals can look similar to what we’ve all become familiar with thanks to influencer brand deals. Athlete partnerships can include social media posts with call-to-actions, affiliate links, and other ambassador-like content. These partnerships don’t have to rely solely on social media components, however. Meet-and-greet events at local businesses, public appearances and exclusive merchandise collaborations can all be done legally under NIL legislation, and can help improve your brand’s reach. 

UT Basketball star John Fulkerson’s Instagram post for partnership with Gambuzza’s, a barber shop in Knoxville.
Cooper Mays, UT Football offensive lineman, posts an Instagram for partnership with Krystal, a regional fast food restaurant chain.

Is your brand ready to capitalize on this new opportunity? Contact the MCG team for help navigating this new, dynamic marketing space. Athletes can also contact us for a no obligation consultation.