The landscape of collegiate sports has shifted given recent developments in name, image and likeness (NIL) deals being made available for college students – and as of this month, high school! NIL partnerships can be a big win for agencies on and off the field, but how?
Our senior account director, Adam McCargo, had the opportunity to speak at the NIL panel during this month’s Atlanta Ad Club event. Here’s are some key take-aways he learned about successful NIL partnerships.
Test and Learn
First-mover advantages can pay off. Our agency was one of the first in Georgia to include NIL as a media activation, just weeks after the state legalized the format.
That early start has allowed us to hone our program from contract negotiation best practices to talent selection to brand safety. And we love sharing our expertise and knowledge with our community.
Open Your Door to NIL Partnerships
For brands, NIL deals open the door to the ultimate amplifier: talent. Athletes must have the range of both skill on the field and the ability to connect with an audience. That being said, understanding your depth chart is an important component in this decision.
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your talent is essential to making informed decisions about which athletes align with your brand.
Before diving into a partnership, establish your goals. What do you want to achieve? Is it instant access to a fan base or a specific target audience? Knowing your objectives will guide your strategy.
Creative ideas can make or break your NIL campaign. Take, for instance, that story of Iowa pork producers and a certain Georgia bulldog. Memorable moments that live in the back of a consumer’s mind are all made through a creative house that started with a list of different concepts.
Measuring the impact and scale of NIL partnerships involves tracking social metrics such as cost per impression (CPM) and a robust public relations (PR) effort. In addition to this comes plenty of opportunities for free organic growth.
Leveraging the natural reach of college athletes can be a game-changer. Their authenticity and connection with fans can drive your brand’s growth.
The last component for a NIL partnership is to consider whether you want to focus on regional or national partnerships. Bridging this gap can open up new opportunities and audiences.
Know What You’re Walking Into
Let’s discuss the pros and cons that come with NIL partnerships. While there are many advantages, it’s important to be aware of the disadvantages that follow.
• NIL deals provide a portal to an instant connection with an audience.
• College athletes take instructions very well, so it is easy to coach them.
• These deals don’t come without unpredictability. These are still students, after all – and their budding careers come with many potential hurdles (e.g., a mid-season injury cutting their time on the field short).
• Your team has to be able to pivot in real time depending on what’s going on in the athlete’s life on and off the field.
Learn to maximize your talent you sign on. Building relationships with directors and producers who can bring out the best in your NIL talent is key. After all, these leaders will be building thoughtful relationships with the talent.
What Have We Learned?
A true partnership is a two-way street, and it starts with the athlete. Building a successful NIL partnership means connecting with them on a personal level.
While there is financial convenience in timing, be wary not to over saturate your brand to the point that it dilutes your message. The transfer portal in college sports presents unique challenges for NIL partnerships.
Brands need to navigate this landscape carefully and we think there’s no better partner when it comes to navigating NIL deals than our experienced and knowledgeable team.
Are NIL Partnerships only for “the fun B2C brands”?
No. NIL is a really clever way to help promote a multitude of brands, organizations and services, providing a genuine and entertaining way to connect to audiences in their market.
Our planning team is always ready to help you navigate the NIL space for success. Let us know if you’re ready to talk!