The playing field… As the sports industry makes more $$, players want a bigger piece of the pie. The pros have been forging record-breaking contracts with their teams, and raking in millions with endorsement deals on the side. Meanwhile, the biz of college athletes’ name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals has grown to $1B/year since a 2021 SCOTUS ruling first allowed students to earn off their fame. And this week the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Dartmouth basketball players are employees who can unionize. Though it’ll likely be appealed, it’s a step toward college athletes having more power over their perks. Even high-school players in some states (where it’s legal) are making six figures with brand collabs.
The players… Travis Kelce may be making all the headlines now, but it’s Shohei Ohtani who made contract history last year, signing a $700M, 10-year deal with the LA Dodgers as teams shell out top dollar for top talent. On the college scene, Colorado University QB Shedeur Sanders makes $4.3M/year off NIL deals, and USC basketball’s Bronny James has an NCAA-topping ~$6M/year NIL earnings potential. LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne, who has ~8M TikTok followers, could earn as much as $3.2M promoting the likes of American Eagle and Vuori.
For brands, student athletes are the best-performing subset of social-media influencers.