While the impact of pending NCAA rules changes or new state laws cannot yet be calculated, a valuable marketplace already exists for student-athletes to monetize their Name, Image & Likeness (NIL) in the near future.
Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter or YouTube are likely to be the first place athletes can go to create new value for themselves.
INFLCR’s NIL team, led by former ESPN and Dallas Cowboys content leader and INFLCR COO Neeta Sreekanth, created a multi-dimensional formula to assess athletes’ per-post value for branded content on social media. Sreekanth and her team have also had the benefit of data from more than 20,000 current student-athlete users who rely on INFLCR to grow their social brand organically.
INFLCR’s formula takes into account a variety of factors beyond followers on social media, such as team performance, sport played, and size of the conference, and has been established to help INFLCR clients and other collegiate athletic programs understand the impact and opportunities that NIL may provide for their athletes.
Combining INFLCR’s approach with methodology established by INFLCR partner Athletic Director University (ADU) and Navigate Research that valued each Instagram follower at $0.80, the NIL team also reviewed the potential annual advertising value for INFLCR partner Duke University, specifically the members of the 2019-20 Duke men’s basketball team.
2019-2020 Duke Men’s Basketball Roster: NIL Valuation
At the top, a star athlete such as freshman All-American Cassius Stanley, with a following of more than 513,000 on Instagram, had an estimated annual value on the platform of $410,720. This represents an audience that could command more than $15,000 per post, according to INFLCR’s formula, and would rank among the top 5 athletes in the NCAA, according to ADU.
ACC Player of the Year Tre Jones, with more than 385,000 combined followers across Instagram and Twitter, has an audience valued at more than $308,000.
At the bottom, a player having as few as 14,000 followers (but playing at a very high level in a big conference) could potentially command a rate of more than $400 per post on Instagram.
For players such as Stanley and Jones, these social followings will certainly have potential to be lucrative on the next level regardless of whether they are in college at the time of any potential rules changes.
The 14 players on the Duke roster had a combined Instagram following of 1,545,400 (tops in college basketball), an audience estimated at more than $1.2 million in annual advertising value.
The same players had a combined audience of 175,000 on Twitter, representing a cumulative audience value of more than $139,000.
Collectively this represents more than $1.3 million in value that could have been available to student-athletes on the Duke basketball team.
“For 95 percent of college athletes, their college careers will be the best time to grow and leverage their personal brands. Unless America knows you on a first-name basis like Zion or Kyrie, fan affinity and networking opportunity peaks in college,” said Duke men’s basketball Creative Director Dave Bradley.
“Therefore, it’s crucial for athletes to understand and maximize their brands from day one — and the best way to do this is through social media. The potential changes coming to allow athletes a greater ability to capitalize on their name, image and likeness would only amplify the incredible importance of social media to a college athlete in any sport. Not just the Duke player with a bigger following than 75% of NBA guys.”
There is potential for significant revenue for top-line NCAA players, but the INFLCR review of Duke’s following found that even those players who have not yet established stardom on the court or large followings on social media could potentially create revenue opportunities for themselves.
How Athletes Will Develop Their Social Media Valuation
As the NIL landscape evolves, these numbers make it clear that many athletes will arrive on their college campuses with a potential value already established. Moving onto the stage that is collegiate athletics, within the team brand they represent, will add value to their audience and increase their opportunity to both grow their follower count and their bank account.
For others, the spotlight of college athletics will provide the opportunity to exponentially grow their following after they arrive on campus. A follower total of a few hundreds can grow quickly for an athlete when they sign with a college as a recruit, or begin to make plays and gain more notoriety on the field of court.
“As social media has evolved, athletes have been empowered with their own media channels,” said INFLCR founder and CEO, Jim Cavale. “And the current generation of student-athletes have embraced their social media platforms to a degree that will afford them many new opportunities that athletes before them never had.”
Of course, it isn’t enough to just have followers. To create maximum value in the market, the athletes must also be compelling storytellers. Authenticity and consistency are keys to success, says Cavale, whose platform INFLCR empowers 100+ NCAA teams like Duke to easily distribute content from team and national-media sources directly to the players’ phones in real time.
When Duke athletes leave the court, they find their phones stocked with content in their personalized galleries within their INFLCR app to tell the story of the big moments they create.
Cavale believes the best approach is to empower the athlete with a wide array of content to tell their own story in their own voice. Ninety percent [or more] of an athlete’s social media posts should be organic or editorial storytelling with no monetization, meaning the other 10 [or so] percent of their social media posts provide a branded content opportunity between the athlete and endemic brands, in the form of a paid endorsement campaign. These posts are much more powerful and authentic, within the context of the programming that athletes’ followers are accustomed to seeing, when the athlete is proactive on the editorial storytelling aspect of their social media.
Paid posts without this foundation of organic storytelling simply won’t be as effective, he says, and ultimately will not achieve maximum value for either the athlete or the brand he or she represents.
“An athlete’s ability to post and post often, with a variety of content that tells your story on the field or court and off of it, is essential,” Cavale says.
“This requires education to know how and when to weave your personal story into your social media channels, as well as real-time access to content that is being created around your story each day by your team’s media staff and other external media outlets. Posting a diversified set of storytelling content to your social channels, paves the way for the monetization of your social media posts with branded content.”
In essence, the landscape of social media becomes an opportunity to grow. Leveraging the spotlight to grow a personal brand becomes just another extension of their collegiate experience to develop — just like working out in the weight room, practicing on the field or court and taking care of their bodies with good training and nutrition.
INFLCR will continue reviewing the social media and NIL valuations for partners and other collegiate athletic programs, to help them prepare for future realities as the NCAA continues to unveil new recommendations and policies for review.