More and more states introduce bills that make it illegal for the NCAA or other college sports associations to place any restrictions on the type or size of endorsements deals that college athletes could sign in the future.
In these states, student athletes would soon have the ability to profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL).
For the first part of the study, which was completed prior to the 2018 NFL and NBA drafts, Kunkel and his colleagues scoured through the social media profiles of Division I football and basketball players. This was no small data pool. In total, 7,591 football players from 55 different schools and 1,139 men’s basketball players from 71 different schools had their number of followers tracked as part of the data analysis. They then applied a CPM, or price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on one page, to each individual athlete.
Some of the top-tier athletes skew higher, but we found there was potential monetary value for just about every athlete on social media.
The study shows that the annual social media account value of athletes with just 10,000 followers could be worth more than $5,000. For athletes with 100,000 followers, that number balloons to more than $50,000.
However, it’s not just the football and basketball players who could have a chance to cash in. In the second part we tracked the social followings and engagement of all student athletes at four institutions, which represent two top-tier and two mid-tier NCAA Division I universities: Clemson University, Stanford University, Temple University and Jacksonville University. In total, 2,130 athletes were analyzed: 821 from Stanford, 453 from Jacksonville, 441 from Temple and 415 from Clemson, examining a total of 20,978 Twitter posts and 16,453 Instagram posts.
Some of the top-tier male athletes skewed higher, just because they’re in the news all the time, but there was no significant difference to female athletes. In fact, when we consider the median, female student-athletes actually ranked higher than male athletes. On average, they also post more content than their male counterparts. For years, the NCAA has said that NIL would not be beneficial for female student-athletes, but our research shows that’s not valid.
This doesn’t mean that student-athletes should plan to make a living off social media shoutouts or micro-influencer marketing. However, should legislation get passed, it’s likely that almost every athlete with even a moderate social following might have an opportunity to earn some extra income.
This opens opportunities for athletes to monetize and compete with their university for sponsorship money, as companies can go right to the athlete and just ask for a shoutout across social media instead of sponsoring the athletic department. That’s going to be the easiest way to do this, and one of the first ways we will see athletes profit off of their NIL.
Universities need to prepare for this to educate their athletes and provide guidance on staying compliant with how they can and can’t use the university brand in their personal sponsorship activities. This is just the beginning of a fundamental change of the college athletics industry with many challenges and opportunities.
Kunkel, T., Baker, B., Baker, T., & Doyle, J. P. (in press). There is no nil in NIL: Examining the social media value of student-athletes’ names, images, and likeness. Sport Management Review. Download
The research has been picked-up by mainstream media across the United States and helped shape the NIL policy of the California Community Colleges. A list of media outlets that mention the research is presented below:
- Catalyst podcast (October 18th, 2021). NIL: It’s a game changer. https://www.fox.temple.edu/catalyst/nil-its-a-game-changer/
- Forbes (August 7th, 2021). New NCAA NIL rules may result in more Olympians staying in school. https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbaker/2021/08/07/new-ncaa-nil-rules-may-result-in-more-olympians-staying-in-school/?sh=61b770934c68
- USNews (August 9th, 2021). Name, Image, Likeness: What college athletes should know about NCAA rules. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/name-image-likeness-what-college-athletes-should-know-about-ncaa-rules
- Cal Matters (July 23rd, 2021). Decisión de Corte Suprema, NCAA anima a defensores de compensación de atletas universitarios en California. https://calmatters.org/calmatters-en-espanol/2021/07/decision-de-corte-suprema-ncaa-anima-a-defensores-de-compensacion-de-atletas-universitarios-en-california/
- USA Today (July, 2021). Barstool Sports is sponsoring hundreds of college athletes, but what value does it provide? Paywall restricted access.
- USA Today (July, 2021). Olympic couple Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall define a generation of social-savvy athletes. Paywall restricted access.
- Detroit Free Press (July 2021). Why mid-majors can be bit-time players in recruiting under NCAA’s new climate. Paywall restricted access.
- 90.5 WESA (July 9th, 2021). Pennsylvania colleges gear up for student endorsement deals. https://www.wesa.fm/arts-sports-culture/2021-07-09/pennsylvania-colleges-gear-up-for-student-endorsement-deals
- The Business Journals (July 7th, 2021). Name, image and likeness rules add additional pressure, costs to small colleges. https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/news/2021/07/07/name-image-likeness-small-colleges.html
- CBS8 (July 2nd, 2021). Supreme court, NCAA decisions embolden advocates for college athlete compensation in California. https://www.cbs8.com/article/news/local/california/calmatters/supreme-court-ncaa-decisions-embolden-advocates-for-college-athlete-compensation-in-california-calmatters/509-55869607-512f-4760-ab93-1a12923fcc2e
- Washington Post (June 25th, 2021). What to know about name, image and likeness and how it will affect the NCAA. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2021/06/15/nil-ncaa-paying-college-athletes/
- ESPN (May 23rd, 2021). Meet ‘that Oregon softball girl’ on TikTok, Haley Cruse. https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/31491308/meet-oregon-softball-girl-tiktok-haley-cruse
- Buckeye Extra (Published May 20th, 2021). Opportunities await Olympic sport athletes with proposed NCAA name, image and likeness rules. https://www.buckeyextra.com/story/other-sports/2021/05/20/college-athletes-name-image-likeness-ohio-olympic-sports-income/5148129001/
- Cincinnati Post (Published April 2nd, 2021). UConn’s Paige Bueckers tops NCAA Tournament social media list. Here’s how much she could earn. https://www.ctpost.com/sports/article/UConn-s-Paige-Bueckers-tops-NCAA-Tournament-16071599.php
- ESPN (Published March 8th, 2021). Social media stardom: How changes to NIL will benefit athlete-influencers across the NCAA. https://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/30945653/social-media-stardom-how-changes-nil-benefit-athlete-influencers-ncaa
- KYW News Radio (Aired March 16th, 2021). Name, image, likeness: the best way to pay student athletes? https://www.radio.com/kywnewsradio/podcasts/kyw-newsradio-in-depth-229/name-image-likeness-the-best-way-to-pay-student-athletes-359435884?
- Above the Law (Published Feb 10th, 2021). Putting To Rest The Claim That NIL Isn’t For All College Athletes. https://abovethelaw.com/2021/02/putting-to-rest-the-claim-that-nil-isnt-for-all-college-athletes