Which schools really build brands?
Today, there’s a line item on every agenda… for every recruiting visit… at every D1 school in the country that addresses just that – how this school will help you build your brand.
But does that program live up to its promise?
For the last few years, this battle has been fought with mostly qualitative measures. The schools that produce the best visual media, work with the best technology providers, create personalized logos, and can showcase a handful of social media posts from their premier players have been deemed the best “brand builders.”
Coming changes to student-athlete name, image, and likeness rights make this conversation very real and very quantifiable… very fast.
Recruits across the country will soon know which schools are measurably best at helping student-athletes build the value of their name, image, and likeness rights while on campus. And while NIL earnings will be unique to the individual, you can bet recruits will know which groups of players are bringing in the most income.
This is where the recruiting battle of the next decade will be fought and won.
A Window of NIL Opportunity
Recruiting is a vicious cycle.
The winningest programs recruit the best athletes. Those athletes help their programs win the most games. By winning more games, the athletes earn the love of their fanbase and exposure to a national audience. The increased exposure results in the most valuable athlete brands… and, guess what? Those programs sell their player-and-brand development success to the next cycle of top-tier recruits.
Win. Recruit. Brand. Win. Recruit. Brand. The cycle goes on, and on, and on.
Since personal brand building has entered the consciousness of today’s athlete, this recruiting cycle has primarily benefited many of the same premium programs.
But a window of opportunity exists for teams who have yet to compete for titles.
As name, image, and likeness rights changes rapidly approach, athletics departments and teams have the opportunity to plant their flag as NIL U.
These schools can –and some already are – invest serious time and resources to provide a program to help student-athletes maximize and soon monetize the value of their NIL rights.
Brand building and NIL monetization strategies can, and will, be taught like life skills courses are taught within athletic departments today. It’s an opportunity to provide every athlete with the ability to create something that will be them value long past their time on campus. The schools that create the strongest programs will immediately have a leg up on the rest.
Schools that aren’t already perennial powerhouses can separate themselves from the pack and offer recruits an NIL program that doesn’t hinge on wins and losses alone. The window of opportunity is brief, and some are already taking the lead.
Provide Proof Behind the Program
We’ve said it before – every athletic department and team claims to help student-athletes build their brands. And many do in various ways. But which programs are actually great at it?
Here’s the good news: it’s all measurable and the social media data is available. To take it a step further, we created a calculator using data from thousands of transactions at the professional level to determine the NIL earning power on social media for every athlete.
If your program works, you can prove it. Right now, you can show recruits how much your student-athletes’ NIL earning power has grown during their time on campus, and how you’ll help them do the same.
This gets even more real in nine months. You can bet recruits will wonder how much student-athletes at school X earn in NIL compensation compared to school Y.
Like it or not, your program to help student-athletes maximize and monetize their NIL rights will be on full display. Are you ready for that level of transparency?
Rising Tides Will Lift Underperforming Programs
Schools with a tremendous team in one high-profile sport, but an under-performing team in another stand to benefit from incoming NIL changes. Those high-performing teams bring in significant fan interest and revenue from sponsors.
Consider Georgia Athletics. While Georgia Football consistently competes for SEC titles and even national championships, the basketball program rarely gains national relevance. Despite its shortcomings on the hardwood, Georgia Athletics ranks in the top-5 in terms of annual sports sponsorship revenue every year.
The high-performing football program keeps fans and sponsors engaged beyond the fall, bringing fan interest and sponsorship revenue to additional sports, including basketball.
So, what does this mean for NIL? There’s reason to believe that sponsors who want to work with Georgia student-athletes won’t stop at football players, just like sponsors don’t activate only around Georgia Football.
Schools with significant sponsorship revenue streams coming in from one sport will be in an advantageous position, as those same sponsors will likely support athletes from other sports.
Those in this position will have the opportunity to market the enhanced earning potential of their student-athletes. Ultimately, this will prepare under-performing programs to enhance recruiting efforts and establish success not just in NIL monetization and recruiting rankings, but inside the lines of their sport.