A New Frontier In Sports Marketing: Student Athletes

May 18, 2021 10:37:03 AM / by Palmer Reynolds

Sports Marketing is an ever-changing profession. Not too long ago, we invited Adam Martin (Makers of Sport) onto our podcast, The Admosphere, to provide insights into how big brands and teams make use of marketing. Though not the only avenue in sports marketing, college athletics represents a large piece of the proverbial pie and has been a point of contention for years. 

 Currently, these student-athletes are not permitted to make money based on their likeness, image, and name. Nor can they partner with businesses for promotional purposes, lest they lose their eligibility with the university. In a study done by Ohio State University, it was found that star football players can make up to $650,000.00 for their respective schools without seeing a penny in return. Doesn’t seem like a fair shake, does it?

The University of Nebraska is seeking to change that disparity.  Having recently partnered with the social publishing/digital advertising platform Opendorse, Nebraska seeks to launch the first-ever program designed to help individual student-athletes build their personal brands. Paraphrasing a line from FiveThirtyEight “Every student-athlete will be provided a valuation of their brand as well as insights into how to boost engagement and augment their social media following. Content calendars, performance benchmarks and various strategies will be provided to every athlete representing the scarlet and cream.” Adam mentioned at the top of the podcast that this kind of sports marketing isn’t too dissimilar from regular marketing. Teams still need to create content and engage audiences in order to make a profit, but now that profit will have to include student-athletes.

It is important to recognize that, according to a 2013 study by the National College Players Association, 80 percent of college athletes on full scholarships are left below the poverty line. Those extra dollars could help out big time. Somewhat more discouraging, the only place you would be able to receive a full scholarship is the so-called “head-count” sports: Football and Basketball for men along with basketball, volleyball, tennis, and gymnastics for women. In fact, only 53% of student-athletes receive some kind of financial aid/scholarship to play in their respective sports. Even then, scholarships don’t cover the entirety of the student’s expenses. The average scholarship for a division one athlete is about $18,000 per year. Subsequently, the average tuition for a public university is $21,000. Allowing these student-athletes to use their likeness could help pay for expenses that the scholarship doesn’t offer.

So, what does this mean in the long run? Answers may vary considering who you talk to, but I speculate that small firms like Zipie will be at the forefront of this shift in college athletics. We already have a structure in place that will allow these athletes to see how they are performing on social media with programs like Report Garden and Facebook advertising.  The student-athletes at the University of Kentucky will be able to see in real-time how their “brand” is performing, give us feedback, and grow their audience further. The founder of Opendorse, Blake Lawrence, believes the monetization market will be focused heavily on local or regional opportunities. Zipie could facilitate these opportunities because of the ties we already have with local businesses to the benefit of everyone involved. Like it or not, change is coming. 

-Palmer, Digital Experience Specialist

Topics: Social Media, Experiences, Blogging, Copywriting, Full Service Management, Management, Advertising, Strategy, Sports Marketing

Palmer Reynolds

Written by Palmer Reynolds