Scoring Big with College Athletes

By William Lopez

A reporter with ABC reached out to my PR team this summer, as they often do, to work up a good buzz for a few of our clients. As we got to talking, I learned that they were also planning on running a segment concerning the recent decision to allow NCAA athletes a chance to promote their name, image or products and businesses they endorse, for a profit.

I agreed with the reporter, that this policy is a long-time coming, but he was a bit unsure of the success of this new opportunity. Would a company be willing to spend tons of advertising dollars on TV and radio ads, attaching their name to someone who may only be familiar to those who are fans of that particular sport, at that particular school? Also, college athletes’ careers, for the most part, are fleeting, as most don’t enter the professional arena.

What then?

That’s when a four-second conversation switched the direction of their story.

“What about social media?” I inquired.
His wheels began to turn, and the next thing I knew, the segment switched, now focusing on the vast pool of opportunities available for NCAA athletes to promote themselves through social media. How satisfying it felt to help be a part of that paradigm shift!

Social media provides the ideal platform for dedicated athletes to create their own brand, and monetize on that brand via apparel and promotional products, to name a few. Additionally, a lesser-known athlete who nails it with social media could garner a much bigger fan base with the help of self-promotion, generating recognition and more excitement among fans.

Scoring Big with College Athletes - photo of Duke Men's basketball team via the Duke Chronical

Photo by Eric Wei | The Chronicle

The opportunities are endless with social media promotion, as athletes who become influencers have the potential to catch the attention of major brands, where the sky could be the limit in terms of their exposure and fame.

As it relates to paid endorsements, I can see brands paying these athletes for social media posts and online advertising. I also feel that this opportunity for athletes to be compensated will bring awareness to less known, less popular sports such as rowing and lacrosse. Additionally, athletes who are influencers will have created a platform that allows them to voice their opinions about social causes to help elevate their sense of value and self-worth. Imagine how much good an athlete could do to support a non-profit or charity, for example, when they have a broad following.

Personally, and professionally, I support these athletes being able to be compensated. Based upon the time they need to commit to academics and practicing for their sport, there is not much time left for them to actually work. Becoming an influencer could allow these athletes to offset their inability to get a job, to help support themselves through college.

And finally, as one reporter mentioned, this is their “moment in the sun” as only a small percentage of college athletes move on to professional status, either by choice or by the competitive nature of the business. So, if they can capitalize on being compensated during college, I think that’s great.

One concern I have, and hope universities will help with, is that they would provide financial education and guidance to these college athletes. As endorsement deals come their way, with top players potentially earning upwards of six figures, it would be helpful if the schools could provide the players some sort of financial advice to help these players manage their new income streams.

It’s high time the NCAA opened the gates of opportunity for college athletes who are dedicated to promoting their schools’ success through their chosen sport. Social media is a win-win solution for creating an identity platform for these athletes, and it is a great feeling to know that my influence in the reporter’s segment about this option may have helped thousands of athletes score big!

Check out the news segment here: