Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
Early last week, I wrote that I wanted to sponsor multiple college athletes to NIL deals to help promote Extra Points. There was a legitimate business reason for doing that, since I'd like to grow my readership among college students and college athletes. I'm fortunate that many college athletic administrators and thought leaders subscribe to this newsletter, and if information is good for the athletic director, head of marketing and SID, I figured it might be good for the athlete and the graduate assistant.
But I also wanted to go through this process to better understand how it actually works. I feel like I've written more about NIL than I have almost any other subject over the last year. It's one thing to track state legislative developments, or talk to economists or consultants or administrators. It's another thing to sit down at my desk and actually try to give an athlete some money in exchange for promoting a product.
So I did it. And I thought it might be interesting to share a few of things I've noticed, just from the very beginning of the NIL era.
How do you actually find an athlete?
So far, I've had success using three different methods.
The most direct, and the cheapest, is to reach out to an athlete directly on social media. All three of my first Extra Points sponsorships (Parker Ball of Tennessee football, Eric Miller of Purdue football and Matthew Coghlin of Michigan State football) came out of conversations that initially happened via Twitter.
Eric was previously an Extra Points reader, and proactively reached out to me when he read that I was looking for athlete sponsors. I became aware of Parker after another beat writer amplified a tweet of his soliciting brands. And Matthew was such an effective pitchman for his first NIL deal that I felt like I had to reach out.
On one hand, this is probably the cheapest and quickest way for a brand to start a conversation with an athlete. I didn't have to pay any marketplace fees or go through any middlemen. If you know exactly who you already want to work with, sending a DM might be a great way to go. But you're then also limited to athletes that have open DMs, and figuring out what athlete would be the best fit could be really inefficient.
I'm on Twitter way too much anyway, so I can have these conversations relatively quickly. But I don't think every brand works like that.
Another method is to reach out to the school. But that can be hit or miss.
I wasn't even sure if I could reach out to any schools. After all, state law or university policy for many schools dictate that universities can't broker NIL deals. But I figured it was worth a shot.
For example, I saw that Alabama released an FAQ, full of brand guidelines and information about reaching out to Crimson Tide athletes. At the bottom of the page is an email. I sent a note to that address, introducing myself, explaining my campaign goals and my company, but did not get a response.
I also reached out to Toledo's athletic department. I grew up in Ohio, and thought I might try reaching out to athletes at some of the most established athletic programs in the state. I was told by Toledo athletic officials to refrain from contacting any athletes yet, and to wait a few more days. To be fair, I did reach out just a few hours after Gov.DeWine signed an NIL-related executive order, and I suspect many Ohio institutions were scrambling to figure out what, exactly, was going to be allowed, and when.
I also reached out to BYU. I was talking to their compliance staff for yesterday's newsletter, and at the end of the conversation, mentioned I may be interested in working with some of their Olympic sports athletes, and if the school had any they'd recommend I talk to. Their staffers asked me to write out some campaign details, which they shared with several of their athletes. I've spoken to at least a half-dozen BYU athletes since then, and anticipate formally working with more than one.
I share all of this not to criticize any department. The last week was especially hectic, and even now, it might not be totally clear as to exactly what schools can do to potentially assist athletes. I will say though, if you're looking to work with an athlete at a specific school, and aren't married to only working with one or two specific names, reaching out to the school's compliance department isn't a bad idea. Maybe they'll pass your info along.
Finally, there are plenty of marketplaces
There are a lot of marketplaces out there for brands and athletes to meet. My friend Kristi Dosh over at businessofcollegesports.com has what I think is the most comprehensive list, but we might have missed somebody by the time you read this.
I've used OpenDorse, MarketPryce, NOCAP Sports and OpenSponsorship, and could potentially use others. I expect to announce deals that I've started through OpenDorse and MarketPryce very soon. Note: MarketPryce is a supporter of Extra Points.
Each marketplace is a bit different, and many focus on different types of deals or athletes, but they share a lot of similarities. Typically, the brand searches the marketplace database for a certain type of athlete, the brand reaches out to the athlete, negotiates a deal, and the brand then pays a fee to the marketplace.
There are some real positives to these systems. Many of them have large databases of athletes, making it easier for national brands to find the athlete who is really the best fit for their campaign. You don't have to worry about hoping somebody has open DMs. From the athlete perspective, you don't have to worry about weirdos DMing you, and the marketplace might easily sync up with any school compliance obligations you might have.
But a week in, I can see a few potential hiccups
In a lot of ways, this is still a pretty inefficient marketplace, one where parties on both sides are lacking information. Athletes, by and large, are lacking in professional representation and experience in influencer marketing, and may have little idea how to properly price themselves or begin these conversations. Many brands currently engaging in this space, including this one, are also new to influencer marketing, and also may not know how to best price campaigns. Neither side may know exactly what is permitted, or what paperwork is required, for compliance purposes.
I'll also add that these marketplaces are not always very user-friendly. A company like, say, a local pizza joint, could be the perfect sort of company to engage in an NIL deal with a local athlete. But if that company has never bought Facebook ads before, or run a campaign, they might find the marketplace structure overwhelming. I can imagine another cottage industry of consultants, perhaps built out by the marketplaces themselves, focused on helping brands optimize their athlete influencer campaigns.
I'd expect it'll take months before enough info comes out to help all parties feel a bit more comfortable with how this process is supposed to work. It'll also take time for more parties to actually join the marketplaces! There are a lot of athletes that haven't signed up yet, and plenty of brands, especially larger ones, aren't participating yet. In the meantime, expect inefficiency and some confusion. Everybody is still trying to figure out how to do this correctly.
Here is the basic framework of the deals I've done so far:
I'm offering athletes three things. I'm offering a free paid-subscription to Extra Points, a flat rate (between $50-$150, depending on their school and size of their social networks) to promote Extra Points on social media on Twitter or Instagram, and a $16 commission for every subscription that comes from their unique discount code.
All the athletes I'm talking to have social media profiles with under 10K combined followers, and in many cases, under 5K. I may reach out to athletes who have much larger profiles later this year, but I wanted to spread my campaign budget out to a number of different athletes at first.
So it's not a huge amount of money. But it's also the middle of summer, and the marketplace is very new. As everybody learns more about the market, I may make different campaign investments.
Here's some very basic advice I'd have for athletes:
- You don't need 15K followers to make any money. Dosh had a really important article here, written specifically for women athletes, to remind them that their NIL has worth, even if their follower count is in the 1,000-3,000 range. Depending on your own interests and the interests of the brand, that smaller audience could be much more valuable. The only way you can find out is if you ask. I'd strongly encourage athletes to put themselves out there. Don't talk yourself out of opportunities before you even start.
- The easier you can make life for the people who might want to give you money, the better. It's one thing to post a tweet that says you're open for business. It's another to share a marketplace profile, to tell brands what you're interested in, what motivates you beyond your sport, and why you're an interesting person. Don't be afraid to proactively reach out to folks either!
- Don't take deals just to take them, and remember, opening some doors might close others.
- NIL is about more than just social media influencing. You can also make money giving lessons, doing public appearances, speaking, running an unrelated business, and more. Talk to your compliance staff, talk to your coaches, talk to your professors and others in your life for ideas, if this is something you're curious about.
- Finally, if you want to take any of this seriously, talk to an accountant. The NCAA might not investigate you, but the IRS sure as hell will. Make sure you get right with the taxman and with any IP you might be using.
If you want more on this stuff, good news! We just did a podcast about it
By now, your podcast feeds should have the latest episode of Going For Two, all ready to go. Bryan and I talk even more about my process of finding athletes, where I'm looking next, what conclusions we ought to draw from the NIL marketplace so far, what we expect to change in the near future, and what's so interesting about what schools like Miami are pulling off.
We also talk even more about the new EA Sports Video Game, and what updates in individual and group licenses mean, and don't mean, for the game.
You can subscribe to Going For Two for free, wherever you get your podcasts.
This week's Extra Points is supported by Charty Party.
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They have both an all-ages version and a grown-up version. Use promocode EXTRAPOINTS to get 15% off, and help support this newsletter.
This edition of the Extra Points newsletter is also supported by MarketPryce.
College athletes across the country can finally make money from their name, image & likeness.
But, now that they can make money from endorsement deals, the question is, “How will they find companies to work with?” That's where MarketPryce comes in.
MarketPryce is a two-sided marketplace that is already empowering professional athletes to connect with brands to close marketing deals. They’ve already seen 1,000 deals flow through their platform since their launch earlier this year.
MarketPryce is not only accessible to pro athletes -- they have student athlete membership available now. MarketPryce provides a safe marketplace which empowers student athletes to connect directly with vetted companies (both local + national) who are looking for athlete ambassadors.
Click here to learn more about MarketPryce!
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For questions about buying ad space in future newsletters, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. For article ideas, NIL inquiries, story feedback and more, I'm at Matt@ExtraPointsMB.com or @MattBrownEP on Twitter.