Council Post: How Businesses Can Engage The New Age Of Affiliate Sponsorships With Student-Athletes

Technical co-founder of Printify, a print on demand network to help merchants make more money in a simple and easy way.

On July 1, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) approved a historic policy change, allowing student-athletes to financially profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). Removing these restrictions will transform the college sports landscape, which is thriving in America — college football programs can generate more than $4 billion in annual revenue for the 65 universities making up the Power 5 conferences alone, according to ESPN.

Individual athletes now have a unique opportunity to profit from their image, name and likeness. It’s not just the evolution of the available rights, but rather the role that technology is playing that makes this change so impactful. We see the emergence of various applications that can help individuals start an online business. 

As a result, student-athletes can bring a built-in new generation of expensive social media following and engagement to double the impact. There are several directions they can go in:

1. Start affiliate marketing campaigns. Student-athletes now have a chance to build their communities on social media and position themselves as influencers. Then they can sign deals with various companies and use these social media platforms to drive traffic to their websites. This way, athletes will get paid from each sale they make, which is an excellent strategy for long-term passive income.

2. Create content. Student-athletes can start producing “behind the scenes” content on their social media channels. This way, they can develop their brand through training footage, game footage, pictures and other NIL-related compensation avenues. It’s easy to monetize once you have traffic on social media pages.  

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3. Start a print-on-demand (POD) business. POD is a process that dropships products to customers only after a sale goes through. Athletes can easily build their online brand and sell NIL-related merchandise.

Dropshipping solves the problem of investment, storage, sourcing, shipping and other logistical management. This leaves the brand owner the time and energy to focus on building their business. 

What opportunities does an updated policy open for companies?

The influencer marketing industry has massive growth every year, according to Statista. The updated NIL policy will help companies reach more desired brand ambassadors and unlock powerful opportunities for them in new markets. Now, brands have a chance to plan successful campaigns and fully use student athletes’ potential. 

These opportunities are endless. Brands can quickly build excitement among student communities if they capitalize off cultural sports moments and feature some of the college athletes in their campaigns by, for example, producing merchandise. 

What should businesses consider when they start signing deals with student-athletes?

For businesses, it is important to understand that this NIL policy update has been a long time coming for student-athletes. Finally, they have a chance to profit from their hard work. Players now have more motivation to be known to the public and build their audiences. 

Companies that are targeting the same audiences as student-athletes have should use this opportunity and work on deals with them. This way, businesses will build brand authority and effectively increase their following on multiple social media channels.

What are the challenges for businesses to run a successful campaign with student-athletes?  

There are lots of challenges related to running a successful campaign. For example, when talking about affiliate marketing, companies should consider a couple of things. They should understand, for example, what goals they have as a business and how they align with the new traffic source that will come to their website. 

Companies also need to realize that it is better to find athletes who haven’t signed partnerships with other companies yet. Advertising power is higher when they don’t have other deals, and it is more likely that their followers will come to the platform to get more conversions. 

When it comes to starting a POD business with a student-athlete, companies should focus on personalizing designs and understanding what products appeal the most to their audience. They should test new designs and products to come up with an effective strategy. For marketing purposes, they should start creating social media content with college athletes, raising awareness and driving traffic to an online store. 

Once companies have determined the specific goals and have a plan to use this partnership to reach a larger audience, student-athletes should have a better sense of what they are representing and should be more willing to get on board.


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