Sep 24, 2020
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Marketers Bullish On Monetization Opportunities For NCAA Athletes With NIL Rights

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TUSCALOOSA ALABAMA – NOVEMBER 09: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs with the ball. [+] GETTY IMAGES If and when—and it certainly seems love it s only a matter of when—NCAA athletes may be able to begin monetizing their name image and likeness opportunities for social media marketing present the lowest-hanging fruit


But what does that market really appear as if and which student-athletes can have the greatest opportunities? I spoke with senior executives from four leading influencer marketing companies to get an idea of the current landscape and the way student-athletes will be capable to make the most of opportunities. They were all captivated with the possibility of being able to work with student-athletes and most were already putting people and techniques into place to start as soon as the guidelines allow it


The biggest factors that will influence a student-athlete s ability to monetize their social media stands out as the size of their following their engagement rate and the final awareness of the student-athlete which is perhaps influenced by the game they play and the success of their program. All the marketers I spoke with emphasized Instagram and YouTube as both platforms where student-athletes have the most potential for monetization


The minimum following may well be similar across all platforms however the earning potential will be highest on YouTube then Instagram says Stephanie Stabulis vp and senior strategy director of HireInfluence. Mathew Micheli co-founder and managing partner at Viral Nation agrees that Instagram and YouTube are the most valuable platforms for monetization as we speak but he wonders how feasible YouTube is for student-athletes


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However it produces more income given the price of the content. Tyler Farnsworth founder and chief growth officer at August United says his agency would generally be trying to partner with student-athletes who’ve a minimum of 10 000 followers on Instagram or average video views of a minimum of 20 000 on YouTube


On Twitter they investigate average engagement quantity in terms of retweets and likes and on TikTok they review overall profile and check for key areas of opportunity. Most marketers I spoke with described a ten 000-follower minimum on Instagram but Mae Karwowski founder and chief executive officer of Obvious. ly says they routinely work with nano-influencers with 1 000 to ten 000 followers besides bigger influencers


On YouTube she says brands are seeking 50 000 or more subscribers. People love sports and social media is a big overdue opportunity for faculty athletes says Karwowski. Contract amounts go up with follower counts but engagement is another important metric that brands look at. The athletes on our platform have a mean of 6


5% engagement rate which is much higher than the final average of about 2%. The game a student-athlete participates in also will likely impact their earning potential in line with most marketers. Most of the time the more prominent sports can have athletes with greater social followings. We d typically see this play out in football and basketball as they regularly make the most of the most outside media coverage says Farnsworth


With that said we have seen various other individual athletes with great stories or those with Olympic participation as an example reach an improved degree of awareness and thus have increased brand partnership value. Karwowski agrees football and basketball athletes can have built-in advantages but says Influencers in lesser-known sports along with fencing or equestrian can build communities and find brand collaborations too


Student-athletes in sports outside of football and basketball will likely find opportunities in smaller niches or with regional brands says Micheli. Other sports are a touch more difficult using the lack of national exposure. On a micro-regional level they might be popular but how is someone who lives in New York supposed to know what happens with Oregon s soccer team? Besides a student-athlete s sport playing a job geography and strength of program may have an impact on monetization potential


Geography or affiliation doesn t dictate much in college. Popularity size and conference play a much bigger role says Micheli. As an example the hottest name in college football is Joe Burrow who plays QB for LSU which is located in Baton Rouge that has a population of a few hundred thousand people


Versus a school like Fordham located within the Bronx may never have a game televised and lacks a player who anyone would recognize on the street. Stabulis says Athletes at D1 schools and greater state schools are more likely to have relevancy in terms of endorsements just because they are more widespread and have greater audiences—students and alumni—than your smaller schools


Geography can still play a job however says Farnsworth. As an example we have a grocery client that might be interested in working with student-athletes from USC or UCLA as they are relevant to the realm in which they serve. So we know the opportunities are there. But what can a student-athlete expect to make as an influencer? Several of the marketers point to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as an example of a current student-athlete with a great deal of earning potential as an influencer


Tua boasts nearly half a million followers on Instagram and maintains a mind-blowing 19% engagement rate on his posts says Farnsworth. He doesn t post quite often but his fans absolutely love him. A man like Tua could easily earn $25 000 or more per branded partnership. Micheli has an analogous opinion of Tagovailoa


A lot of these athletes could arguably be more popular than their pro counterparts. As an example Tua Tagovailoa in college football if given the opportunity would probably out-earn 90% of starting NFL quarterbacks if given the opportunity. I could almost make certain that he says. I circled back with Farnsworth and Micheli after Tagovailoa s season-ending injury to invite how an occurrence like that might impact the demand and future earnings of a student athlete


There’s still significant value in brand partnerships; however a brand may well be hesitant to sign a long-term commitment or may put contingencies in place said Farnsworth. Briefly yes a significant injury that takes the player out of the media spotlight could negatively impact the final opportunity for brand deals


That s a sobering statement to make since the health of the athlete is what really matters but is likely a reality nonetheless. Micheli had similar sentiments. Currently Tua s injury has taken him out of the endorsement spotlight until he s recovered. Especially given the severity of the injury he s going to put all his energy into recovery he said


Severe injuries can damage both career longevity and the athlete s pockets because they re not the new topic right now. We also observed how the market for a student-athlete might shift after their playing days are over and that they re out within the working world doing something outside their sport


Should a collegiate athlete not move forward within the sport post-college that is likely that their media attention will diminish said Farnsworth. This could result in a lower overall social profile and consumer or fan attention. Once the faculty athlete s career is over and that they don t go pro their marketability essentially goes away said Micheli


Endorsements will in all probability become non-existent. They become old news unless they go pro or go into another career that will require them to keep up a social presence. There may well be some anomalies or outliers to this but for the most part all is lost for them unfortunately


However Farnsworth says it doesn t must be the tip of the rainbow. Many could use their collegiate time as a launchpad to other successful opportunities. We see this for all time as certain players transition from their life in pro sports. As an example former NFL wide receiver Eric Decker gained prominence during his time within the league but has continued growing his stature online now commanding a significant presence


He has grown an audience that’s incredibly engaged and interested in his now post-NFL family life. We have partnered with Eric and saw incredible success. Even with their star status Stabulis says there s money for influencers at every level while they re still student-athletes. Since it s a spot market we can expect influencers a good way to make about $250 to $1 000 per post at these lower beginning following ranges


That will escalate as the athlete can reach more people through their social media outlets. That is the price per post for a brand looking strictly at reaching audiences or as part of an influencer marketing campaign. For endorsement deals that have faith in procuring an athlete s name likeness and deeper partnership or ambassadorship we anticipate this higher says Stabulis


This is likewise where star performers bound for pro sports leagues may well be offered more opportunity and more potential earnings. Karwowski puts the common as we speak for college-age sports influencers at $200 to $5 000 per post counting on their followers engagement and quality of content. Micheli says a student-athlete at a Power 5 program with a following of over 25 000 could earn $2 000 to $4 000 monthly between digital advertisements and local sponsorships


For athletes who produce video content their earnings can easily be within the six-figure range annually to start. The marketers all agree brands are salivating over the opportunity to work with student-athletes. We re already hearing from our brands says Karwowski. They re chomping on the bit. We re also ramping up our talent recruitment efforts to ensure that athletes have the finest possible representation and contracts as they re entering this space


Stabulis agrees. In 2018-2019 alone our company has developed strategies for a minimum of four to 5 brands targeting student-athletes and we have been restricted using the NCAA regulations she says. The demand is already there so we see potential for brands to move quickly to work with student-athletes. Micheli adds the caveat that it s not basically the game a student-athlete competes in or their following; the most successful student athletes are going to be the ones who can develop platforms targeting their very own unique personality


Brands will be salivating to work with many of the higher-profile athletes especially when trying to market to a younger generation says Micheli. One major factor is the athlete has to have personality to be successful. Success on the court or field doesn t mean everything. Karwowski agrees and offers an example of a college-aged athlete doing well


Many of the most successful sports influencers we ve seen up to now are those who also show their very own personalities of their feeds. As an example Moaci Lopes (@moacilopes) is a college-aged surfer and skater but his account with greater than 100 000 followers is truly targeting his style


A short investigate his account reveals way more posts targeting travel and style than highlighting him actively competing in sports. Instagram feed of Moaci Lopes SCREENSHOT His feed is in stark contrast to current student-athletes like Tagovailoa and Oregon women s basketball player Sabrina Ionescu whose feeds are way more targeting their sport and often feature them in uniforms and other school gear in posts


Sabrina Ionescu s Instagram feed SCREENSHOT Some athletic administrators I ve spoken with have indicated student-athletes may not be granted the rights to use university intellectual property in sponsored posts which would mean no uniforms or other gear with school logos. Asked if that might make a difference of their ability to monetize most marketers agreed it may have an impact but probably isn t a deal-breaker for most brands


For higher-profile student-athletes who have already got made a reputation for themselves absolutely not says Micheli. They may well be doing endorsements across the country for a plethora of sorts of brands and people would undoubtedly know who they are. On the topic of less-high-profile athletes this will pose difficulty given they haven t built a powerful personal brand and will be less recognized by the common person


Stabulis says Not in our experience looking strictly from an influencer marketing perspective—but it’d really rely on client expectations and whether they are targeting reaching a specific audience through influencer marketing or they are simply seeking an endorsement from a next big sports star. When the focus is on audience brands tend to want access to either a native audience or audiences with shared interest to what the student is posting about along with sports or training she continues


When brands search for an endorsement they rely on the popularity and affiliations to assist elevate the athlete across brand-owned marketing channels and public outlets. Micheli says all the what-ifs make this an interesting turning point for faculty sports. This ruling will make the sports go a technique or the other


Athletes might get too caught up with making a living or it’d incentivize higher levels of competition and increase interest within the specific sports. Within the meantime the NCAA and its participating institutions have much to consider beyond the fundamental issue of whether student-athletes should be capable to monetize their name image and likeness


As an example will collaborations with brands in certain industries along with marijuana or gambling be banned? What about conflicts with existing deals entered into by athletic departments or universities? Who will be accountable for monitoring it all? When insurance policies are taken out for lack of future earnings for student-athletes who are injured will that come with any loss in marketing revenue? Should athletic departments be accountable for educating student-athletes on contractual and financial issues surrounding the recent market for their rights? These are only many of the questions that still have got to be answered before the marketplace opens to student-athletes


It s an interesting time indeed

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