NIL Has Changed Influencer Marketing, And Brands Need To Catch Up


CEO and founder of Curastory.co.

In July 2021, college athletes were given the right to make money with the passing of new name, image and likeness (NIL) interim policies. Before then, athletes caught in monetary transactions would face punishment and consequences that were detrimental to their careers.

The passing of the NIL policy changed the landscape for those in collegiate sports, with brands projected to spend about $1.14 billion on college NIL deals. College athletes are now turning the creator economy upside down and are joining the 50 million people who view themselves as full-time “creators” and the 500 million people who have posted at least one video on TikTok—what we call “creator curious.”

NIL deals are bringing in big money and increased financial opportunities for universities, brands, students and in-house marketing teams across the nation. However, some brands are having a hard time understanding their next move.

Today, college athletes are disrupting the social media world with their own genuine, passion-driven content, and brands are learning that there is power in working with these “smaller influencers” to start conversations that convert to sales.

Although some brands see the value of working with these college athletes, others are simply not aware of it. In a world where the perception of successful marketing changes by the hour, some brands are still making novice mistakes by only looking at follower numbers and recognizable names instead of the quality of content and actual engagement.

Even many of the brands that are already getting involved in influencer marketing campaigns with NIL athletes are spending money on dated names and followers and are missing out on a new wave of talent in collegiate athletics entering the influencer marketing space.

New Technology Will Drive The Market—Brands Need To Keep Up

For brands looking to improve their NIL influencer marketing campaigns moving forward, it’s vital to keep an eye out for new technology by keeping up with industry trends and news to make sure their tech stack is up to date. New technology is regularly appearing in the adtech and martech worlds that can allow for more efficiency in the creation of powerful campaigns as a response to the growing interest both from brands to tap this market and from influencers who are looking to connect with big names. This technology should be used to gain new insight, build stronger relationships and stay up to date with new creators in the game.

When researching the right technology to implement, brands should remember that automation is key and should be used to guide their rosters. Audiences are complex, so data should drive the spend. Additionally, brands will need to consider the size and capacity of their company’s needs and determine whether the technology is appropriate. Technology can also vary by the type of content and, at times, platforms. Brands will need to make sure that the technology they decide to incorporate is easy to use and can sit on top of existing channels.

Lastly, brands need to prioritize quality over everything. The quality of the content that influencers are sharing needs to be weighed. Brands can’t be fooled by alluring numbers, as quality content is important for brands looking to create impactful campaigns.

The Future Is Bright

As both brands and athletes continue to learn more about how to maneuver through these new policies, consumers can expect to see more and more campaigns including their favorite athletes.

As money continues to funnel into the industry, this new reality for athletes is sure to change the world of sports forever. NIL will forever change the face of the industry. Sports that dominated traditional media in the past can expect steep competition as nontraditional athletes continue to increase their earnings through very nontraditional methods—and now on their own terms.


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