Last Updated on September 14, 2021 by Kristi Dosh
Due to an NCAA ruling earlier this year, college athletes can now monetize their name, image, and likeness. In a recent study conducted by Bet Arizona, every Division I athlete in the state was observed to see who would benefit from the new ruling.
Prior to the rule change, college athletes could not accept endorsement deals, brand sponsorships, or any other compensation for the use of their name, image, and likeness. The rule was to preserve the concept of amateurism for athletes, signifying that they are primarily students who should receive scholarships as incentives, not other forms of compensation.
The insurgent rise of college sports led to billions in revenue through ticket sales, merchandise, and television deals over the last few decades. The influence of social media, streaming services, and broadening technology contributed to this rise in college sports, leaving the NCAA weakened in its position on continuing to defend some of its amateurism rules.
Social media has had a profound effect on the name, image, and likeness of college athletes, making it extremely difficult for the NCAA to regulate athletes’ personal social media accounts.
How can college athletes monetize their NIL?
Athletes’ personal social media content, followers, and branding all contribute to their likelihood to getting sponsored by a brand – the most obvious way of generating revenue.
College athletes that are not nationally recognized are not excluded from this either; a player that has a decent following and engagement from their peers could attract local businesses to sponsor them as well.
The ability to profit from athletes’ NIL is not solely reliant on social media – the new rule change allows them to create their own merchandise, sell autographs, create and sell athletic training programs, or pursue and market any business or creative venture that they choose.
How much can they earn?
Social media is one of the determining factors in how much an athlete can hope to generate by marketing their NIL.
ESPN estimates that athletes with a following of hundreds of thousands could expect to generate six to seven figures if they partner up with an iconic sports brand. On the other hand, athletes with a few thousand could expect to generate $1-3K annually if they are business savvy with their account.
Which student athletes in Arizona stand to generate the most?
Considering the NCAA’s decision to allow athletes to monetize their NIL, Bet Arizona conducted a study to find out which Division I athletes are poised to generate the most money by marketing their personal brands.
Bet Arizona decided to focus on 8 sports at four Arizona universities. The sports included football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s soccer.
The study focused on the Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok followings of every player on these teams’ most recent rosters. They used an average estimation of $0.80 per follower per year to better understand how social media savvy and athleticism could translate to real revenue for students.
KEY FINDINGS (BET ARIZONA):
- On average, men’s college basketball players in Arizona have the highest earning potential compared to other sports. Only five players currently have followings large enough to generate over $50K in income each year — four of them are men’s basketball players.
- Women playing basketball or softball at an Arizona university have higher social media followings, on average, than men’s football players.
- Compared with UA, GCU, and NAU, Arizona State University athletes across all sports have the highest average number of followers (5,904), and thus the highest average earning potential ($4,723).
- Marcus Bagley is the AZ student athlete with the highest earning potential by far. Bagley, who plays for the Arizona State men’s basketball team, has nearly 360K followers between Twitter and Instagram, more than triple the next highest follower count on the list.
Men’s basketball players are Arizona’s most followed collegiate athletes, dominating five of the top ten athletes: Marcus Bagley (ASU #1), Dalen Terry (UA #2), Luther Muhammed (ASU #3), Aidan Igiehon (GCU #4), and Holland Woods (GCU #9).
Two women are found in the top ten, listing at number five and six respectively: Nicole Soto of the ASU women’s soccer team and Aari McDonald of the UA women’s basketball team.
Three football players also make an appearance on the top ten list: Jayden Daniels (ASU), Jaden Mitchell (UA), and Johnny Wilson (ASU). An interesting case among the football players is Jaden Mitchell. He represents the lowest number of Instagram and Twitter followers but contains the most TikTok followers (37,800) of any athlete on the top ten list.
Which sports are likely to get the most attention on social media?
Nationally, football is the greatest revenue generator of all Division I NCAA sports. In Arizona, the same holds true – according to BizJournals, football accounted for 42.3% of the income generated for UA’s athletic department and 38.3% at ASU in 2018.
However, the greatest revenue generator does not always equate to the most followers of individual athletes.
Men’s basketball is the greatest sport to play for those that are looking to monetize their NIL in the state of Arizona. The players at universities in Arizona have more than five times as many social media followers as football players on average. This translates into an additional $10,000 to the average annual potential earnings held by athletes.
The women’s basketball team also triumphs football in Arizona as far as social media engagement. On average, women’s basketball players have 10% more social media followers than football players do.
Women athletes monetizing their NIL and generating more awareness
Historically, the coverage between men’s and women’s sports has a disparity that is well-known among sport enthusiasts. A recent study by Global Sports Matters found that women college athletes receive less than 4% of the coverage on traditional media channels than their male peers.
Social media is not abiding by the same trends that traditional media channels do; with college athletes permitted to monetize their NIL, women are likely to out-earn their male peers in some cases.
Across all sports and schools in Arizona, women have 30% fewer social media followers than men on average. On an individual school-by-school and sport-by-sport basis however, this is not the trend that is seen.
One example lies in the UA women’s softball team, averaging 6,000 followers per player on the team, whereas the men’s baseball team averages 2,200 followers per player. The UA softball team is one of the most successful in the Pac-12, having won 11 NCAA conference championships in the last 20 years as opposed to the baseball team’s three championships, contributing to the gap between followers.
Women’s sports is largely overlooked by viewing audiences, however female student athletes have the potential to raise awareness of their sport, while monetizing their NIL. Of the 24 college athletes in Arizona whose strategic monetization of their NIL could earn them upwards of $10,000 per year, five of them are women.
NIL Rights are a game changer for many student-athletes
Out of all the Arizona student-athletes, only a handful are expected to generate a serious income from marketing their name, image, and likeness. However, even a modest income could improve the life of student-athletes and have a direct impact on their future careers.
Many student-athletes do not come from wealthy backgrounds and with a rigorous training schedule and academics, it is difficult for many student-athletes to pursue a part-time job outside of the college. Even a couple of thousand dollars per year could make a big difference as to their monetary support while in college.
Of all the Division I athletes nationally, fewer than 2% end up playing professionally after college. In Arizona, that means that only 15 of the 700 Division I student athletes studied here will continue professionally. Prior to the rule change, the college athletes could never profit from their time in the spotlight, leaving them disenchanted about continuing their career in sports post-graduation.
The new rule change still hinders many unanswered questions about NIL and college athletics; universities and states are still trying to understand the rulings, what that means for regulating students, and where there are gray areas.
The new ability for athletes to profit from their own NIL undoubtedly provides them with incentives to train harder and possibly encourage them to pursue sports-related careers post-graduation. The income could have a tremendous effect in the career trajectory of student athletes, whether it be professional athlete or otherwise.
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