From today, after years of debate, college athletes can finally be paid based on their name, image and likeness.
Late yesterday, the NCAA announced that an interim policy had been adopted by the three divisions suspending name, image and likeness rules. This will impact both incoming and current student-athletes in all sports.
With the new interim policy in place, brands in the footwear industry have a new opportunity to tap into a base of young, influential and energetic student-athletes. But is the investment worth it?
According to Marc Beckman, founder and CEO of advertising agency DMA United, shoe companies would be wise to explore this untapped resource. “From a marketing standpoint, this generation will be accessible and accessible to Gen Z and younger people, and in turn, will influence shoe purchases,” Beckman said.
Matt Powell, senior sports industry advisor to The NPD Group Inc., believes brands can match student athletes cheaply, if they act early.
“I don’t think you’re going to have to spend tens of millions of dollars here. You can probably get an athlete to [endorse products] for $ 10,000, not $ 10 million, ”Powell said. “If the approval of an athlete like this makes a difference, then we’re going to see more and more money being put into it. “
Still, the industry insider believes brands need to be cautious when tapping into this source.
“It would take a special athlete to really capitalize on that. If you take the star quarterback or the star softball pitcher and make them wear your clothes, is that going to make people want to wear the products? I am not so sure. But if a brand signs a top athlete and that athlete is able to generate sales, I think brands will rush in and do a lot more, ”explained Powell.
Powell also believes that performance on the pitch or on the pitch is not the only barometer in selecting a student-athlete to support. “A sense of style, a marketable personality and performance on the playing field are all qualities that you want to assess in terms of an athlete’s approval,” he said. “It’s all about personality, dress style and obviously performance on the pitch – it’s a combination of all of those things. “
Late yesterday, Darren Rovell of The Action Network published a ranking of today’s college athletes in every sport who could lead the charge by capitalizing on the new NCAA policy. Topping the list was Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler, who often gives insight into his fashion preferences on social media – with looks such as the Comme des Garçons Play x Converse Chuck 70 “Multi-Hearts” and the Off-White x Nike Dunk Low “University Red”.
Rovell also revealed social media subscriptions for each athlete. Rattler, for example, has 377,000 on Instagram and 63,100 on Twitter. The student-athletes with the broadest reach on social media are LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne, who has 3.9 million followers on TikTok and 1.1 million on Instagram, and prominent LSU basketball player Shareef O’Neal – the son of NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal – with 2.7 million followers on Instagram and 322,000 on Twitter.
Beckman and Powell both believe brands ranging from newbies to industry giants will pursue student-athletes, but they actually give small businesses the edge for signing.
“I really see the opportunity here for the guerrilla marketing side of the little brands that have a little edge, an attitude to be the ones that could benefit from it,” said Powell. “Brands that have more of a fashion heritage than brands that really try to sell sports products.”
Beckman noted, “The old guard is too laid back and will apply their stereotypical approach to identifying, securing and activating college level athletes. But naturally, they will also miss a few, which will open the industry to launching innovative fashionable brands. “
Nike, Adidas and Jordan Brand are all players Beckman says will be active in signing student-athletes, but he predicts another name could cause a stir. “Don’t be surprised if Converse comes out with a surprising lead over other brands. They are reinventing and speaking the language of this younger generation, ”Beckman said.
For Powell, the signing advantage could go to Puma. “It’s a smaller, emerging brand that’s really focused on fashion – even though it makes performance products,” he said. “For a small amount of money, you get a kid wearing Puma products on campus. Let’s see if this means anything to the business.
In addition to Puma, Powell thinks non-sports brands could make noise, especially Chaco, which stands out in the outdoors, which has sandals traditionally a staple on SEC school campuses.