Last Updated on December 2, 2020
Today, I had the opportunity to present as a panelist before the Community College Athlete Name, Image, and Likeness Working Group created by Senate Bill 206 (Skinner-D, 2019) in California.
I wanted to share the short talk I gave below, which I’ve enhanced with some links and images to further illustrate my points.
Here’s the talk I gave:
Today, anyone can cultivate their own personal brand. Thanks to platforms like blogging and social media, it is possible in mere minutes for someone to begin crafting that brand online in a way that attracts an audience and grows the value of their brand.
The influencer marketing industry is expected to grow to $9.7B in 2020 according to a study by Influencer Marketing Hub. More than 4,000 people surveyed said they intended to dedicate a budget to influencer marketing this year. A whopping 91% of them said they believed influencer marketing to be an effective form of marketing. Other studies show that to be true.
According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations, and 40% of those polled say they’ve purchased something after seeing it on Twitter, YouTube or Instagram. Looking more broadly, 86% of women said they use social media for purchasing advice.
Smart marketers who are embracing influencer marketing are seeing a $6.50 return for every dollar spent, and over half of the marketers in this particular study said the customers they acquire through this route are better prospects. Nearly 60% of all fashion and beauty companies engage in influencer marketing, and an additional 21% in the study planned to add it to their strategy in the coming year.
Outside of my sports reporting, I own a boutique PR agency that works primarily with solopreneurs. Many of my clients are either influencers themselves or are looking to collaborate with influencers on campaigns. This isn’t only because it’s effective, but also because there’s a low barrier to entry. A solopreneur can DM an influencer and work up a deal in mere minutes with no need to hire a creative agency and develop collateral.
For student athletes with a social media presence, these opportunities are already out there. Marketers I’ve spoken with have already been investing in the people and technology they need in order to begin approaching student athletes as soon as it is permissible.
The student athletes who I believe will see the quickest results if allowed to profit off their name, image and likeness are those who’ve already built up their personal brand through at least one social media channel. Marketers I’ve spoken with are generally looking for accounts that already have a following of 10,000 or greater, however, Influencer Marketing Hub’s research shows 300% more micro-influencers (people with 1,000-100,000 followers) were used by large firms last year than just three years prior.
The key is engagement. An average engagement rate on Instagram is somewhere around 2-3%. However, athletes tend to have a much higher engagement rate. Obviously you’re likely to see student athletes with the largest followings be from highly visible sports like football and basketball where media coverage – particularly national media coverage – is more prevalent.
That being said, when we’re talking about social media marketing versus something like an endorsement, there is plenty of opportunity for student athletes who have built a brand around a specific niche – something like makeup application, for example – to make money as a social media influencer.
So, what I think we’ll see is student athletes who already have an existing social presence benefiting the most quickly, particularly those who’ve developed content within a specific niche.
However, any student athlete could start today and put themselves in a good position once NIL becomes a reality. I want to just give a quick example. I recently started a pen name for my fiction writing. Everything from my blog to my social channels had to be started from scratch, with no real benefit from any value I may have built up in my personal brand up to this point because it was a brand new name.
I was able to grow to 1,000 followers on Instagram in just 90 days, which is the fastest I’ve ever grown a social media account. These are real followers in a very specific niche, which for this account happens to be the beach lifestyle – I’m writing beach reads and I blog about everything from book set at the beach to beach travel, coastal home decor and more. I didn’t use any paid services to boost my following, I just spent at least an hour a day every day posting on Instagram, commenting on other people’s posts in my niche, using hashtags relevant to my niche and creating a few Instagram stories each day.
When I was around 800 followers, I began getting DMs from brands that wanted to offer my free clothes in exchange for a post. Although I haven’t yet been offered money to post, I do know from speaking to other influencers I know that it can begin as early as the following I have right now. I’m sure Mr. Lawrence who follows me will be able to share more on the monetization aspect, but the general rule of thumb is that you can expect about $10/1k followers for a post.
I follow an account on Instagram called @influencerpaygap, which is a great resource to check out if you want to see the real offers people are receiving in their DMs. Because that’s what’s going to happen with student athletes – if it’s not already – they’re going to start getting DMs offering them free products and compensation for posts. Many small businesses go directly to influencers through their DMs, not through major marketing agencies.
Here are some examples I pulled from that account today:
- An influencer with 4.6K followers on YouTube is getting $50 to mention a company in a video and $500 for 1-2 minute video promo
- An influencer with 12.6K followers on Instagram with 3-4% engagement rate is getting $150 for 1 Instagram post and 3 Instagram stories or $300 for 3 posts and 5 stories
- An influencer with 4K followers on Instagram is getting $600 for 1 video post and 3 Instagram stories
There is no doubt in my mind that there are many student athletes who will be able to profit as social media influencers within mere days of NIL becoming a reality. Outside of social media, I think hosting camps and signing autographs will be other easy avenues, with endorsement deals also being possible for the higher-profile athletes, particularly in Division I. However, make no mistake that there will be opportunities at every level for some form of compensation if the student athlete focuses on building their personal brand.
However, opening up to allow student athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness is not without its concerns. Student athletes are going to be approached directly through DMs and emails and may not have the education or sophistication to spot which opportunities are scams or to read and understand the rights they are selling when they sign a contract.
One book I would recommend anyone interested in the social media influencer aspect of NIL to read is Influencer by Brittany Hennessy. She has worked for several major brands hiring influencers for campaigns and goes into great detail about how influencers should conduct themselves, what to look out for in contracts and more.
Although there may be some unintended consequences, I do believe there is enormous opportunity out there for all student athletes at every level. I appreciate being asked to present today and look forward to answering your questions to the best of my ability.
Want more on NIL? Check out the following articles and podcast episodes: