Best Practices

College Athletes As Influencers: Are They Effective?

By Editorial Staff

Although college athletes still don’t get paid, there are many avenues they can take to secure their own income. Every athlete deserves to be reimbursed in some way for their efforts on the field or court, and the NCAA’s new interim policy to suspend their name, image, and likeness rules give them the opportunity to earn what they’ve worked for. In today’s age of social media and technology, making money online has never been easier. With 436,000+ NCAA college athletes now eligible, becoming an influencer seems to be the easy choice. 

College Athletes Stepping Into The Online Market

After all three divisions came together to grant college athletes their name, image, and likeness (NIL) ownership, there have been several cases of off-court success that reveal the potential these athletes have had all along. Now that they have the facilities to manage themselves, they have the opportunity to increase their income as well as become more responsible. This new rule omission seems to play into every advantage that a college athlete has. So, does this make them effective influencers? The short answer is: it still varies. 

While there is a lot of money to be made from being an influencer, there are still many factors that need to come into play in order for college athletes to strike success in this space. Those who have found success have taken advantage of these factors and have since developed growing partnerships with all kinds of sponsors. These include factors like what school they play for, what kind of social media presence they have, and even what time of the year it is.

Each sport has a time and place where it shines the most, and to have all your ducks in a row when the time comes bodes well for an extended career as an influencer. These are what companies mainly take into account when they offer sponsorships. However, college athletes need to also remember that there are many companies that might not have their best interests in mind. Studying up on the company’s sponsorship history and culture will go a long way in securing a safe and consistent spot in the influencer game. This is especially advantageous for those college athletes that go on to pursue non-athletic goals after graduation. 

As of those that have found sponsors, many have cited the help of marketing platforms like Captiv8 being instrumental to them navigating this new space. As more college athletes venture down this path, the stronger the precedent will be for future athletes.

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1. Cavinder Twins

One of the more popular stories that have resulted from this rule change is the success of the Mountain West Conference Player Of The Year Haley Cavinder and her twin and teammate Hanna. Altogether, their endorsements are building up to $1 million in value, with brands such as Star Six Pro Nutrition, SoFi, and now the WWE helping their image. The latter came as a surprise to the twins, as Haley cited: “It just kind of happened. It’s right up our alley because it is entertainment. And that’s what Hanna and I do on the side.” No doubt, their prior success with sponsors helped them strengthen their public identity, and will continue to pave their way to more opportunities to come.

2. Brant Banks

The Nebraska Cornhuskers offensive lineman Brant Banks has been killing it on and off the field with his sponsorship from Fair Harbor Clothing. He announced it on his Twitter in October of last year, commending the clothing company’s use of recycled plastic to create their fabric. Their joint mission to remove the millions of plastic bottles from the ocean is just one example of how college athletes can use their status and influence to benefit a good cause. He has also partnered with a local taco shop called Muchachos and has created a new item with them, boosting their sales by 104%

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3. D’Eriq King

D’Eriq King has thrilled fans from Houston to Miami as a quarterback since he started off in 2016 and continues to use his influence in the football space to build quite a career for himself. Using his NIL, he partnered with companies like College HUNKS Hauling Junk and Moving Company, Murphy Auto Group, and The Wharf. He even started his own company Dreamfield with Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton to help college athletes book live appearances to increase their popularity.

Recently, he’s partnered with Mercedes Benz to advertise their new EQS. Being one of the first to hop on the influencer trend back on July 1st when the rule was changed, he’s garnered much success and can be a good example of how a college athlete can venture into the entrepreneurial space. 


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A post shared by D’Eriq King (@deriqking)

4. Bumper Pool

The Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker will be returning for his final season later this year and is planning on using his NIL once more to make some additional profit. He has already partnered with Stephens Insurance, whose CEO Miles Stephens has cited that Bumper’s contributions to the University of Arkansas football program have been significant.” With his name attached to the self-proclaimed largest privately-owned brokerages in the Mid-South, Pool can happily say that he’s using his skills as a linebacker to help local businesses grow. 

5. Kaila Novak

Hailing from the UCLA soccer world, Kalia Novak was also one of the first college athletes to hop on the NIL trend and start making some money for herself online. She has partnered with Coloursound and Huzzah as an LGBTQIA+ influencer after amassing more than 1 million followers on TikTok and has even made it into our new Verified Series. She is currently a junior at UCLA and plays as a division one forward for their Women’s Soccer Team, hoping to pave the way for more of her peers to achieve the same success. 


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A post shared by Kai 🙂 (@kailanovak)

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How to run a successful campaign with college athletes

College athletes are not going to be in college forever, and when they do move on, they usually leave their fame and fortune behind. But building a successful campaign using their NIL can really help them in the long run. Most college athletes don’t have the time to become full-time influencers or start their own companies like some already have, but they do have the opportunity to foster strong relationships with companies that will last far after their college careers. Before a brand or athlete reaches an official union, there are a few things they should keep in mind. 

Brands should take advantage of these tools when working with Creators or running their own accounts. See how to optimize your brand accounts on each platform here.

First, they should understand where the specific school falls in the broad scope of the specific sport. An athlete should understand that their skills and standing are highly conducive to a successful partnership and campaign. They must understand the audience and which social media outlets they have in order to assess their profits beforehand. When you sign a contract for a certain percentage, that needs to be thoroughly examined to make sure it’s within their mutual benefit.

An athlete should also assess the risks involved and make contingency plans. If the culture of the brand doesn’t align with the athlete, then it’s best to go to a safer option despite the money incentive. It’s always best to secure strong relations so that your career will last long after your efforts on the court or field.

This article was written by Gabriel Anton

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