Dan Bradbury: Stepping Up His NIL Game

Dan Bradbury represents an NIL success story. A native of Anchorage, Alaska and football student-athlete at Sacramento State, he attended multiple colleges at different levels before achieving his Division I aspirations. After starting slow, he has created significant NIL value for himself over the past year. 

Trusting the Process

Now with 60+ cash deals and 30+ product deals under his belt, Bradbury wasn’t all in on NIL from the beginning. 

“I didn’t start until October or November,” he said. “On July 1, I texted my favorite restaurants back home and I didn’t hear anything back. I was like, ‘All right, nobody wants to partner with offensive linemen from Sacramento State.’” 

Then, Bradbury was scrolling his social media channels and learned about Opendorse. He created an account and explored the app. Tapping into Opendorse Opportunities, he struck his first NIL deal with GummiShot Energy Gummies. The rest is history. 

“I got a GummiShot deal through [Opendorse] and I thought that it was so cool getting paid for posting on social media. After that first deal, I became addicted.” 

Managing His NIL Business

Bradbury has invested time into his social media platforms, growing his audience on TikTok to 22K+ followers by sharing day in the life content. He has built a strong fan base, and attracted attention from agents and marketing reps. 

“I’ve looked over a handful of [professional service provider] contracts, but I haven’t signed with anyone,” he said. “I’ve been choosing to represent myself because of the platforms like Opendorse where [the platform is] kind of acting as that middleman. It is free for athletes to use. I felt like I haven’t really needed to get an agent because the platform has everything I need. 

“[Opendorse] finds the brands that want to work with us. I just click apply, and then hear back from the brand. It just keeps it simple and lets me focus on school and football, which is what is important.” 

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NIL has provided Bradbury with financial freedom – and more time. 

“Personally, I’m not on a full ride scholarship here currently,” he said. “The last couple of years before I was playing college football, I’ve always had to work some side jobs just to help make ends meet. NIL has filled that gap. I’ve been able to sign deals and do social media posts and all sorts of stuff. I just got to the point where I don’t have to work another job and I can just focus on school and I can focus on my sport – then spend a couple of hours a week, doing some TikTok and Instagram posts. It’s a pretty powerful tool.” 

Creating content and focusing on social media takes time, but Bradbury fits it into natural gaps in his schedule. Sometimes he’ll take an hour in the morning to make content. He may spend another hour in the evening to check Opendorse Opportunities, email, and his social media DMs. 

He has used the summer months to focus on continuing to grow his social media following. As his social audience has grown and he has become more versed in NIL, Bradbury has become more selective about the brands he connects with. 

“When I started, I’d accept any deal that I could,” he explained. “Now I get to be a little bit more selective. I have to remember I’m the brand and I don’t want to become a billboard.” 

Advice for Other Student-Athletes

Bradbury is proof that you don’t need to go to a Power Five school to get NIL deals. He shared advice for student-athletes looking into growing their following and find their first NIL opportunities:  

  1. Create Quality Content  

Your audience follows you for a reason: Fans want to see what you have to share. Bradbury stresses the importance of “you have to be able to make quality content that is engaging for your audience.”  

He defines “quality content” as posts that naturally blend into his feed. Looking back at some of his first NIL deals, he felt some of his content wasn’t aligned with what he normally posts. He has since tailored his sponsor activations to align better. 

“Quality content is something that just flows into the posts that you’re already doing – something that is not obviously an ad.”  

  1. Reach Out 

Athletes are popular figures in local communities. They’re a big deal on college campuses and many brands lean on student-athlete promotion to spread brand awareness to reach their target audience.  

But making connections requires putting yourself out there. Reach out and don’t get discouraged if a brand says “no.” 

“Just reach out. Brands are looking to give stuff away. Whether it’s free product or cash deals, they’re always looking to give stuff away in exchange for social media posts. I tell people to reach out and see what happens. They might say ‘no,’ but best case, you get a little money in your pocket.” 

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