Drive big results with a little help from college athletes.

Student-athletes are now a powerful force for marketing. Here’s how your business can leverage college athletes to promote your products.

Start with your audience

The first step of any marketing campaign is to define the target audience. Once you know that, you can determine how to best reach them, and where.

Start by determining your business’ ideal customer profile (ICP). This is a data-driven picture of the customers who are most likely to buy your products and services.

Some key attributes to define include: 

  • Age
  • Education
  • Income
  • Gender
  • Interests and hobbies
Man holding iPhone with Instagram loading on the screen

Choose your channel(s)

With your target audience defined, it’s time to determine what channels to use to connect with them.

If you have the right message but put it out through the wrong channel, your target audience isn’t going to come in contact with it.

Currently, most data suggest that:

  1. Younger audiences spend more time with TikTok, Instagram, and streaming services
  2. Older audiences spend more time with Facebook, TV, and radio

Interested in Running a Campaign?

Plan the campaign

You know who your audience is and where they spend their time. Before you start identifying athletes to work with and making contact you need to outline the campaign.

  • What are your goals?
  • What exactly do you want the athlete(s) to do? 
  • When do you want them to do it?
  • What are the terms?

Creating a document that spells all of this out will help you make your case and set your company up for a successful campaign.

Ideas for social media NIL campaigns

What’s more interesting, having a company spokesperson talk about your product on social media or having a well-known athlete do it?

The answer is obvious. And one of the simplest approaches is a testimonial.

To do this, you send a product to an athlete, and if they like it, you pay them to create a video or a post talking about what your product is and why they like it.

What a lot of brands get wrong is trying too hard to control the message. Social media works best when it’s authentic and unscripted. 

Provide a few key bullet points they need to touch on, but beyond that let them take the wheel and encourage them to use their own words and show their personality. 

Beyond testimonials, here are two other ways to leverage social media.

  1. Have athletes announce limited-time sales to drive awareness and create urgency.
  2. Create giveaways to drive engagement and create an opportunity to collect contact information.

Ideas for in-person NIL events

The chance to meet your favorite athlete is something people often travel and wait hours to do. This is a powerful thing to tap into.

Jeff Sims posing in front of new Mercedes Benz EQS

When Mercedes Benz launched its EQS vehicles, they used in-person events with college and pro athletes to draw crowds and drive attention.

Beyond simple meet and greets, there are many creative ways to make in-person events even more exciting. 

For example, you could host a football toss or basketball free throw contest with a star player. 

Your business could also sponsor a camp where the athlete teaches kids from the community about their sport, while their parents learn more about your products. 

QB Camp Tweet with McKenzie Milton Example NIL Deal text only

Combining a product giveaway with an autograph signing is also a great hook for customers.

Ideas for traditional media-based NIL campaigns

An eye-catching billboard with the athlete and your products can get a lot of attention in local markets. 

An audio commercial can be used on local and national radio stations as well as on podcasts and streaming services.

And if you have the budget, local TV commercials can still reach a large contingent of older audiences—and that video can then be used online on channels like YouTube.

Identify and connect with athletes

When choosing athletes for social media campaigns, don’t get blinded by follower counts. Followers can be bought (and often are).

The metrics that matter are engagement rate and engagements per post. You should also seek athletes that have audiences that match your ideal customer profile.

NIL deal-making platforms like Dreamfield provide all of this information for you. 

They also have existing relationships with players and agents that make it easier to get in contact and negotiate terms.

The other option is to conduct research using an influencer platform like Upfluence to identify these players yourself. 

Sometimes, these platforms also provide contact information, but frequently, that’s something else you’ll need to chase down. You’ll also need to draft your own contracts.

To recap

  • Determine the ideal customer profile (ICP) for your business
  • Choose the channel(s) for your campaign
  • Plan your campaign and come up with a campaign brief 
  • Identify and make contact with athletes for the campaign

Interested in Running a Campaign?