Influencer Marketing with NCAA Athletes

There’s a new NCAA rule (National Collegiate Athletic Association): It states that all Division I college athletes can make outside endorsements.

It’s a massive opportunity for influencer marketing.

NCAA sports, especially basketball and football, are huge in the United States. There will be many headlines about brands making a lot of money thanks to this new deal.

But one caveat:

Don’t fall victim to paying Division I athletes a lump sum of money in exchange for posts without doing the leg work first.

Here’s one way to capitalize on this new rule:

1) Instead of reaching out to players, reach out to graduate assistants (GA). Every team has different GAs. They’re always looking to build rapport with the players, as they want the head coach to give them a full-time position with the team.

GAs are listed online, so you can easily find them.

2) Tell the GA you want to send free products to all the team players, with “no strings attached”.

3) When they send free products to creators, around 20%-30% of them end up posting. Each player who posts shares 2 to 3 pieces of media.

If a team has around 120 players, it means 24-36 players posting about your product. And roughly 48 to 108 pieces of content shared.

All this promotion comes free of cost, except for the COGS of the products.

4) Identify the players that posted, and ask them to onboard an affiliate program.

5) Out of this batch of affiliates, identify the ones that bring more sales. And then, only then, start to pay them with upfront money in exchange for a promotion.

However, since the opportunity is big, sending free products might not work if your competitors are already in the locker room signing paid deals.

And NCAA athletes and how much exposure they get is very different. A swimming and diving team (outside the teams with Olympic-caliber athletes) gets little exposure. Men’s football and basketball in Division I get lots of exposure, but outside that, you’re going to be wading into the micro-influencer zone.

It’s definitely worth testing if you’re on a lower budget. And something to test as soon as possible, before the bigger brands jump in.

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