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How Will Brands Adopt The College Athlete?

Last week, the NCAA inched closer to a decision on allowing its athletes to earn money from their name, image and likeness. Sports administrators began reviewing recommended rule changes and compensation regulations that will be sent to the NCAA Board of Governors on Monday.

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The NCAA is hoping these recommendations will lay the groundwork for legislation to be voted on in January to take effect in 2021, but it’s being reported that changes could be made as early as this upcoming season.

If enacted, the rules would grant athletes the opportunity to earn money through commercial ventures with third parties. The possibility of sponsorships and endorsement deals with some of college sport’s biggest stars has brands and sports marketers scrambling to put a plan in place. 


Using college football as an example, national brands will seek out stars like Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Texas’ Sam Ehlinger and others with six-figure, and potentially seven-figure marketing deals. They have star power, large audiences across social media platforms and the potential to play at the next level. So, brands will look to get in and capitalize early on their student stardom, and groom the relationship long-term into their professional careers. With that said, these marketing deals are the exception, not the rule. 

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The majority of players will be courted by local-businesses in relevant markets. A.J. Maestas, CEO of Navigate Research, told USA Today in an interview late last year that only 5% of athletes will receive large national deals. The majority of others will sign deals with local businesses with low to high five-figure deals or have more product-focused compensation structures. 


Local sponsorship and endorsement deals will have an impact on the bottom-lines of businesses who rely on the craze and excitement of college athletics. 

The University of Alabama, The University of Michigan, University of Southern California, Duke University, University of Kentucky. These are just a few of the many colleges with powerhouse sports teams that act as the heart of their local economies. The ability for the local sports bar, restaurant, grocery store or sports camp to tap the authentic relationship between beloved local college athletes and fans will draw crowds to storefronts. More importantly, in the digital-first marketplace, these partnerships will drive awareness and sales with increased traffic to shops’ social media channels and e-commerce enabled websites.