Medalist Athlete Branding Guide

Learn how to build and grow your athlete brand.

How Athletes Make Money with Name, Image & Likeness (NIL)

Invest in yourself, it pays the best interest

NCAA Collegiate Athletes will finally be able to earn money off their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). Although the exact details and rules around this are not yet finalized, we can still prepare for the ways an athlete can earn money.

Just like any other student on campus, athletes can earn money through almost any endeavor, from starting a clothing business to opening a lemonade stand as long as they promote it only with their Name, Image and Likeness, and not that of their school or the NCAA. For sake of keeping this article short and sweet, we will focus on 5 main areas you can earn money as an athlete with your name, image and likeness.

1. Endorsements

Every athlete has dreamt about walking in Nike and signing that multi million dollar sponsorship deal to wear free clothes. These major partnerships are usually reserved for the best of the best but that doesn't mean you can't get your own deals done. 

Endorsements, sponsorships, ambassador programs can range from big to small deals, so there are opportunities for every athlete regardless of your fame, or lack of. The bottom line with these types of deals is: Can your personal brand help another business? Whether that is helping Under Armor sell more shoes or helping a local restaurant get a few more customers a week. The more value you can bring and prove to the sponsor, the more money and free stuff you get.

Within Endorsements you can also group Influencer Marketing such as Sponsored Posts on Instagram. In fact there are a lot of ways to use your social media following as an influencer so we've got more details on our blog at making money through Instagram

Athlete Examples:
Troy Palamalu & Patrick Mahomes, Football
Rachel Adams, Volleyball - Adidas

2. Teaching Others

A common way you can use your personal brand to earn money is by teaching others how to play your sport or do your workouts. Since you live and breathe this stuff 24/7 and have been trained by some of the best coaches, you are one the world's best experts that can help others with their sports or fitness goals. All of this can be done in person or online.

You can join up with some teammates and run camps for local youth, you can do private lessons or you can film fitness videos and sell them as online courses. Some benefits to this model is you do not need a strong following on social media to make it happen, but we at least recommend having a good looking website so you look legit ;)

Many athletes that go pro even run sport camps as it's a great way to give back to your community and can also be used as a fundraiser for charities you support. 

Athlete Examples:
Jordan Eberle, Hockey Camp
Klay Thompson, Basketball Camp

3. Selling Products

Did your press conference go viral on ESPN for something you said? Put it on a t-shirt and sell it.

Are you known for always wearing a bracelet you made for yourself with elastics? Make more and sell them.

Selling merchandise can be a great way to make money as an athlete if you have a loyal following. These days there are a lot of companies that let you sell merchandise online with your own designs without you ever having to see or touch the product. Or if you are feeling ambitious you can create your own full fledged business, buy inventory and sell your own products.

Athlete Examples:
Brandon Barnes, Baseball - Blessed Lifestyle Co.

4. Affiliate Marketing / Referral Marketing

Similar to Endorsements, and also a common piece of Influencer Marketing, is affiliate marketing. This is where you promote a specific brand's product or service and earn a percentage (commission) of the sale for every item that gets bought. Think of it as a performance based sponsorship, you only get paid if you directly drive sales to your sponsor.

This is lower risk for the business you partner with as they do not need to give you money upfront. But it also means that you might need to refer a lot of customers to the business to make a meaningful income which can take more work on your end.

Athlete Examples:
Zach Boychuk, Hockey - Affiliate deal with Bet99

5. Producing Content

You might already be producing content through your social media and you can certainly earn money through influencer marketing tactics described above, but athletes can also earn money through their own personal blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts, etc.

This avenue can take a while to build a loyal following, so you must love the process of producing the content to be able to stick with it. But if you follow through with it you can build one of the strongest followings that will stay with you whether you are still a competing athlete or not.

Athlete Examples:

Paula Findlay, Triathlete - YouTube Channel

Rich Roll, Ultra Endurance - Podcast

There you have it, 5 ways you can earn money as an athlete using your NIL. Regardless of the avenues you choose I definitely recommend that you also have your own website to house your personal brand. This way when people Google you, they know where to find your latest venture. Click here to create your own website in just a few minutes!

Written by
Geoff Wolfer
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