College Athletes are Open for Business

A new wave of eligible influencers

After several years of debate and decades of long standing rules, the NCAA announced an interim policy on Wednesday, June 30th that will allow all college athletes to make money from a wide variety of business ventures without losing their eligibility. 

As we enter into the first few weeks of this policy taking hold, we wanted to take a deeper look at what this means for college athletes, brands, and the advertising and marketing industries at large.

The Decision

A decision which came on Wednesday, June 30th, 2021, announced a policy that gives all NCAA student athletes the ability to monetize their name, image, and likeness (NIL). This decision comes as many states are getting ready to pass laws (or already have) that will allow NCAA athletes to monetize their NIL. 

The new policy will allow students outside of those few states to engage in NIL activities that are “consistent with the law of the state where the school is located” and allows students in states without NIL laws to participate without breaking any NCAA rules and jeopardizing their eligibility.

With this ruling athletes will now be able to make money from their NIL and accept endorsements from brands. Some of the activities that this ruling will allow athletes to monetize include:

  • Monetizing social media accounts 
  • Signing autographs
  • Personal appearances
  • Teaching sports camps or lessons
  • Starting a business
  • Selling merchandise
  • Participating in advertising and marketing campaigns

In addition, NCAA athletes will now be allowed to sign with agents, managers, or other representatives to help them secure these types of deals. They can also hire lawyers, accountants and other professionals.

What does this mean for athletes?

What does this mean for the over 460,000 NCAA student-athletes? Well it means that they will have the opportunity to share in the billions of dollars that are generated by college sports every year. On top of the scholarship assistance they receive they will now be able to make money off of their personal brands. For some of these athletes this is pivotal as their time as an NCAA athlete is the peak of their athletic career and notoriety. 

Things are in motion

As soon as this policy went into effect, deals began to get signed, brands worked to secure partnerships, and athletes took to their social media to announce their new endorsements. Let’s take a look at a few of the most notable that have come to fruition:

The Cavinder Twins

Haley and Hanna Cavinder, the star guards for the Fresno State women’s basketball team, who sport 3.3 million followers on TikTok, 67,000 youtube subscribers, and a combined 500,000 Instagram followers, we’re the first to announce their endorsements. 

The brand’s decision to work with athletes that aren’t top prospects was intentional, Stephen Stokols the CEO of Boost Mobile told Yahoo Sports, “That was an ideal one for us to kind of launch and say, ‘Hey, look, this isn’t just about blue-chip athletes coming in and sort of trying to get them before [they get to] the NBA or NFL. This is about all athletes. And every athlete in every sport in every type of school has an opportunity to really create value for themselves.”  The brand is also planning to work with athletes nationwide, with a list of over 400 that began reaching out to last week.

The twins also signed a deal with Six Star Nutrition, already posting content for the brand.

Other notable deals:

  • Hercy Miller, an incoming freshman at Tennessee State University and son of rapper and entrepreneur Master P, announced in the early days after the policy went into effect that he had signed a 4 year, $2 million deal with web design and coding company, Web Apps. 
  • Lexi Sun, a volleyball player for the University of Nebraska, announced via her Instragam account that she is launching her own apparel line in partnership with REN Athletics. The first available piece from the line is “The Sunny Crew” sweatshirt. 
  • Trey Knox, an Arkansas wide receiver, (and his Husky, Blue) signed a deal with pet supply company PetSmart. The partnership is meant to highlight the player’s love for his pet and the lengths PetSmart will go to support pets and pet parents. Knox said “I have always been proud to be an Arkansas football player, but I’m just as proud to be a dog dad to Blue,” in a press release on the partnership.

While these are just a few of the many deals that have been signed and announced in the past few weeks, it’s clear that there is plenty of opportunity to be had here for brands and athletes alike and that both sides are moving quickly.

What does this mean for brands?

The NCAA NIL policy first and foremost gives brands access to 460,000 influencers and content creators that they didn’t have prior, as well as access to their audience and fan bases. While this brings great opportunities to brand’s there are two big things that should be considered when forging ahead with these partnerships: the type of content that NCAA athletes can create, the caliber of that content, and the varying rules across each state.

  1. Type of content: The type of content NCAA athletes are able to provide for a brand is going to look different than your classic influencer who has been creating content as a career for years. Their content is going to consist of behind the scenes looks at their lives as student-athletes, what being on the road and their routines look like, and promoting products that fit into their lifestyle. These athletes may not have personal photographers, videographers, and editors to allow for long-form YouTube or super high production Instagram content. Instead brands should look to these athletes for lifestyle type Instagram stories and short form TikTok or video content as the mainstay of their partnerships.
  2. Caliber of content: When it comes to the caliber of content, student-athletes have notoriously busy schedules. From working out multiple times a day, to practice, to school, to traveling for games, to maintaining a social life, to now adding in content creation, these athletes have their hands full. When brands look at signing deals with NCAA athletes they are going to need to consider that turn around times may be slower, understanding of briefs and contracts may need to be simplified, and the type of content may need to be shorter form to allow for quality execution.
  3. Varying rules: Since the policy that was passed on June 30th, 2021 is just an interim policy, the rules for what is and isn’t acceptable for NCAA athletes to participate varies by state. Several federal options have been proposed and while we await a federal decision, states are getting to work on legislation. 27 states have NIL laws already in place and multiple others that are actively pursuing legislation. Players in their respective states will have varying laws and regulations that need to be followed when it comes to NIL activities. This will make it tricky for brand’s to keep up with all of the different rules and regulations in each of the 50 states. 

All of this being said the opportunities to be had here are endless and we are excited to begin working with brand’s to activate NCAA athletes for their brand partnerships and influencer campaigns. We’ve been around the influencer marketing world for years now and have an expert understanding of how these partnerships should be approached. Don’t hesitate to use us as your go-to resource.

Let us help you navigate this new landscape

If you’re looking to work with NCAA athletes, reach out to us at We’re here to help you navigate these partnerships from start to finish, from utilizing our database and relationships with macro and micro NCAA athletes, to ensuring that all rules and regulations are adhered to.