NAIA Sponsors Should Support Student-Athletes

While some college athletes have landed flashy national endorsements, local sponsors have been the primary drivers of NIL in its first few months. Opendorse, the preferred NIL partner of NAIA sponsors, makes it easy to connect with athletes.

Opendorse data shows 62.3% of athlete-earned NIL compensation came from local brands over the first four months of the NIL era, compared to 37.7% for national brands. And small businesses can enter the NIL game without a massive marketing budget. A couple hundred bucks or free product can secure a partnership with a sports star in your town.

“$30 pays for my groceries!” NIL pioneer Chloe Mitchell, a Women’s Volleyball player at NAIA school Aquinas College, told Front Office Sports.

It’s why the NAIA’s first-of-its-kind partnership with Opendorse is so important for its 77,000 student-athletes and the countless companies that support their programs. It’s why every athlete should explore NIL opportunities, especially considering many are not receiving athletic financial aid.


“There are more local businesses than you’d know that are willing to help student-athletes out, willing to give them that opportunity to share on social media, to spread awareness about their business,” said Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez. Martinez has been active in NIL at the NCAA Division I level. “There are so many opportunities out there, and definitely some that will be perfect [for you].” 

Like Martinez and Mitchell – a star DI quarterback and a freshman NAIA volleyball player – athletes across the country are already cashing in at every level.

Tucker La Belle is another NAIA student-athlete who has been active earning money though NIL.

“We got to be pioneers in the name, image and likeness movement,” La Belle, a Men’s Lacrosse player at Clarke University, told The Gazette. “If I break a shaft or I break a stick, [True Temper Lacrosse] send it the next day, and I have another one for the next game. The amount of gear I’ve gotten for free is insane.”

Dominic Brown is a freshman guard on the Men’s Basketball team at Southwest Mississippi Community College (NJCAA). He linked up with Solepack to secure the first NIL deal for a JUCO player.

“This new NIL rule should not only celebrate an athlete’s on-court feats, but also demonstrate how to use sports as a vehicle towards lifelong success off of the court; regardless of the hype, rankings, or level of play,” said Solepack CEO Mike Sala. “We are making sure the underdogs have a seat at the table.”

Ashland University (NCAA Division II) Track & Field athlete Trevor Bassitt has established himself as a leader in NIL, creating his own merchandise line among a host of other opportunities.

And the entire Whittier Poet Football team (NCAA DIII) connected with a local restaurant for a large-scale deal.

Small businesses can creative and find the perfect partner through Opendorse.


Local companies financially supporting athletes is just one part of the equation. Fans are doing the same. 

Danielle Hart, middle blocker from Wisconsin Women’s Volleyball, owns and operates her own art business. She quickly learned “fans like absolutely want to support athletes.” 

Opendorse’s Pitch Anything feature gives supporters a direct link to athletes in their community. 

“I just recorded the video [for a volleyball team], uploaded it to Google Drive, emailed it off to them, and they paid me through the app.” Hart’s teammate Dana Rettke explained. “It was super simple, super easy. It’s really fun to get to be able to connect with people like that in the volleyball community — and the community in general — because of the big impact we can have on young athletes. I love to do that kind of stuff.” 

It’s easy for brands and fans to set up an Opendorse account so they can start supporting athletes. It’s all about creating mutual value and building a sense of community together.

“No matter how old I get, my community is going to be there,” said Al Blades Jr., defensive back at Miami. Blades has done excellent work cultivating an online community to go with his South Florida family. “No matter how unathletic I get, my personality is going to be there. Community is the biggest thing you can have around you.”

The smaller the town, the tighter the community.