WVU, Duke, & Iowa Show How Collegiate Brands Can Impact Their Student-Athletes NIL

As student-athletes continue to capitalize on their name, image, and likeness, connecting the dots between one’s personal and collegiate brand can maximize a student’s potential. Let’s take a look at three INFLCR university partners and how their brand impact can positively affect their student-athletes.

West Virginia, North Carolina and Iowa are home to seventeen INFLCR partner schools. Three of these athletic departments and their teams have a massive brand impact: West Virginia University (WVU), University of Iowa, and Duke University. We’re going to look at these different collegiate brands at the department wide and individual team level.

Duke

First up, Duke women’s and men’s basketball, and football. Duke has been a long time INFLCR client with the men’s basketball team joining back in 2018. Soon after, women’s basketball and football were added to the roster as the Duke brand continued to grow. 

Men’s basketball’s following across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook stands at 4,265,559. The same for women’s basketball is 117,533, and 154,070 for football. Together the three teams’ followings surpass 4.5 million.

Iowa

Second, the Iowa Hawkeyes. The whole department signed with INFLCR+ to create an NIL program called FLIGHT. This initiative’s core focuses are to empower and educate their athletes across the board on every facet of NIL while at Iowa, as well as preparing them for post-college careers or next steps. 

The athletic department’s social media accounts account for 40% of the entire Iowa Hawkeyes official account brand impact. The department’s following on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook totals 895,217, whereas the individual team accounts on the same three platforms have a collective following of 1,315,783.

WVU

Third, WVU. The Mountaineers football team were first movers in establishing an NIL initiative. Their NIL program, PEAK powered by INFLCR+, focuses on promotion, empowerment, accelerating, and knowledge. 

The team’s accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have a collective following of 723,575. The athletes’ collective followings on Instagram alone is at 376,012.

Collegiate brands have incredible impact that typically trickles down to their athletes. Thus, it’s by no chance that collegiate athletes at the Big 12, ACC, and Big Ten conference levels have large followings. The question is, how can student-athletes continue to capitalize on this impact?

Content & Education. Building A Community. Athlete Engagement.

Content & Education

This is where INFLCR steps in to provide a platform for university staff and athletes to seamlessly upload and download content and consume education for social media.

WVU staff have continually provided content and guidance to their athletes to prepare them for this new NIL era. One of those Mountaineers powering the program forward is Paige Diggs. Diggs became the Director of the 5th Quarter Program for the football team in January 2021. The program is designed to position the student-athletes for off the field success that extends beyond their collegiate playing career. 

Marc Jordan, INFLCR’s NIL Strategy Manager has worked with the program on developing its NIL strategy. He said, “From my first meetings with West Virginia, I knew Paige was special. Her knowledge and background combined with her drive to help her athletes will prove invaluable to the Mountaineers. As she continues to build on the foundation of the 5th Quarter Program and our partnership with PEAK, Paige will continue to be a leader in student athlete development for years to come.”

Education and resources for athletes to plan their next steps is crucial. Diggs said, “While entering into the evolving Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) space, it is exciting but comes with many unknowns.  One way to overcome those unknowns is with great partnerships such as INFLCR. The multiple resources that INFLCR provides marry well with the programming we provide in-house through WVU’s 5th Quarter program. We not only provide consistent messaging across various platforms, but with the help of INFLCR, we prepare our student-athletes to successfully enter into the NIL space and for life after their sport.

At the July 2021 Hashtag Sports NIL x Athlete Brand event, Diggs said “if you use INFLCR, use it to its fullest potential. Our guys post their content like crazy.”

The data proves her right. WVU staff and athletes are INFLCR power-users. Staff have tagged the current roster in 32,297 pieces of content. Athletes reciprocate those uploads with 56,481 unique app sessions on the INFLCR app. To confirm their power-user status, 11 of those current athletes have exceeded 1,000 INFLCR app sessions during their time with WVU.

The football team at WVU has been armed with the content they need to provide their social media with quality posts. Most posts generally relate back to being a Mountaineer athlete, as WVU staff are uploading content related to pre-game, travel, work outs, photo shoots, and in-game action.

Association from an athlete’s account to the WVU brand brings in a celebrity factor that only collegiate athletes in the U.S. know. The same applies to the Duke brand, and how it can help an athlete build a community.

Building A Community

Duke staff has tagged football and men’s and women’s basketball current athletes in 25,551 pieces of content. Athletes from those three teams have passed 17,600 unique app sessions.

Duke is a powerhouse when it comes to men’s basketball, but the women’s basketball team has a weapon working behind the scenes to grow their brand impact. Selena Castillo, the Creative Director for women’s basketball, is going into her fifth season with the team. She has not only increased the team’s social following across the board since arriving, but pushed the team’s Instagram account to the leaderboard for ACC women’s basketball teams. 

All three Blue Devils teams on INFLCR are growing their impact on a daily basis. Men’s basketball in particular doesn’t have a single player on the roster with less than 5,000 followers on Instagram. In fact, the current roster has accumulated an Instagram following that totals a whopping 1,427,500+. Collegiate athletics brands create impact, which in turn creates opportunities for their athletes. This opportunity translates directly into social media impact, and now student-athletes can take advantage of that impact and monetize their NIL.

During a Hashtag sports panel Castillo said, “NIL is about a lot more than how you tweet or how many followers you have,” so educating athletes on staying proud of their school, interacting with their team’s content, and engaging with their fans can take them to the next level.

The two main things Castillo tells her athletes to focus on when it comes to cohesively driving an athletes personal brand with the Duke brand during this era is “relationships and results.” She said, “At place like Duke, you have a huge alumni network and global footprint so without even talking about social media you can start to build relationships off the court. The other thing is results on the court. They aren’t mutually exclusive, however, if we aren’t coming close to Duke Basketball’s expectations then it limits some of those opportunities that come with a strong brand like Duke. When it comes to knowing you have a passionate fan base, it’s knowing that relationships and results will bring everything together and ultimately lead to your stock going up for a higher value in NIL deals and network. Your net worth is your network.”


Collegiate athletes at schools like Duke inherit a community, grow into that community, and then take that community with them wherever they go. In order to reach that community, an athlete must engage.

Athlete Engagement

Iowa Athletics has athletes engaging on INFLCR, thanks to staff tagging them in over 84k pieces of content. Current student-athletes have had over 44k INFLCR app sessions. Those sessions translate into downloaded content used on their social media accounts/platforms. It’s helpful to your following growth rate to post content, but it speaks volumes when athletes interact with content being posted about them and interacting with fans’ comments and/or posts.

It also helps when your school’s social media manager provides quality content to interact with. Hawkeye’s social media guru is Brandee Britt. Our NIL strategist Marc Jordan said, “Brandee is one of the best social media managers in college sports. Her knowledge and understanding of building a brand will be instrumental as we partner with Iowa on their FLIGHT program. Proven social media managers like Brandee are going to be such tremendous resources for student-athletes. I am excited to work with her and the Hawkeyes.”

One Hawkeye that sticks out on social media is women’s basketball all-star Caitlin Clark. Clark boasts 11.2k followers on Twitter, and 45.1k followers on Instagram. A freshman last season, she came to Iowa as a five-star recruit and quickly found her footing on the team and on social media. During last season, Clark kept on average a 51% weekly interaction rate on Instagram. She takes advantage of the platform she was given, posting original content on both social accounts, and engaging with posts from the team and athletics account, as well as with former Hawkeyes.

Caitlin was already a powerful force before she stepped on the court for Iowa, but as she began playing in the black and yellow, the attention she received boosted her following from the 10,000 range to the 45,000 range. All the while, she showed Hawkeyes fans that she was proud of the logo across her chest.

The Takeaway

Content, education, community, and engagement make athletes better off the court. When it’s connected to the collegiate brand they play for, their personal brands reap the benefits. Knowing when and how to take advantage of that crossover is what makes these three schools leaders of the pack in the realm of athlete empowerment.

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