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How much money can college athletes make with NIL marketing endorsement deals?

In a decision that’s sure to change the college sports landscape, athletes can now earn money from the name, image and likeness.

How much money can college athletes make with NIL marketing endorsement deals?
Kevin C. CoxAFP

If you don’t understand the situation surrounding NIL money and college athletes, then no need to worry as we’ve got the low down on what it’s all about.

The NIL money debate

College athletes can now rejoice after decades worth of petitions finally saw the NCAA change its policies where earning NIL money is concerned. In the wake of the monumental decision, universities and major brands across the country have been in a frenzy to understand just what said changes mean and more importantly, how they can benefit from them. Indeed, that fervor is not just limited to those institutions, with athletes scrambling nationwide to get an understanding of exactly what they can and can’t do where NIL money is concerned.

There is of course a great deal of information out there regarding the signing of NIL endorsement deals, but it should be noted that there is much less available in terms of how an athlete can acquire a NIL deal and moreover, just how much one can be worth. With that said, we aim to answer those questions and a few more, so join us for a look at how NIL money works in the college game today.

What is NIL money?

The term ‘NIL money’ refers to money which an athlete can earn by signing a NIL contract which in turn allows the athlete to market their name, image and likeness - hence the term ‘NIL.’ Where the exact amount of money received is concerned, it’s important to note that it depends on factors such as social media following, market value and of course the actual sport in question. At present, football and basketball players receive the largest amount of compensation in the NIL market, but that’s not to say that NIL contracts don’t exist in other sports as well.

How do athletes earn NIL money?

Though there are varying ways in which athletes can earn NIL contracts, the most common are as follows:

  • Accepting direct payments for promotional activities
  • Receiving free or sponsored products in exchange for promotion
  • Receiving free or sponsored services in exchange for promotion
  • Earning affiliate money from social media promotion
  • Becoming an ambassador for a brand or business
  • Appearing in commercials, ads, and digital content

To date there are more than 450,000 student-athletes across the United States who have earned NIL money by partnering with local businesses in promotions. Interestingly, some of those athletes have even managed to enter into deals with big brands, resulting in things like training clinics as well as autograph and photograph opportunities at corporate events. There are even a select few who have managed to be featured in commercials for businesses. With all that said, it still seems that the most straightforward way to earn NIL money is by utilizing social media influence. That’s right, if you’ve got enough of a following on social media, that can be translated into lucrative sums of money by agreeing to post sponsored content. Even nano-influencers – athletes with about 10,000 followers – can profit off of their social media followings.

How much money can college athletes make with a NIL deal?

Broadly speaking, the average income from NIL deals for student-athletes ranges from $1,000 to $10,000, however we’ve seen cases where some athletes have earned a whole lot more than that. Those cases, as mentioned above were directly tied to the sport in question, the projected success of the athlete and the social media following, which as you can imagine was sizeable. Take for example, Alabama’s sophomore quarterback, Bryce Young. With just short of 200,000 Instagram followers, the young QB has already earned over $1 million from NIL endorsement deals and most recently signed a deal with Dr. Pepper. Impressive to say the least.

As much as Young’s earnings are worth recognition, it should be said that not all NIL deals are so grand scale. Indeed, in what is rapidly becoming a fierce market place, student athletes are finding it increasingly more difficult to make the big bucks. If you’re interested in exactly what the figures look like then just take a look at the numbers provided by NIL market platform OpenDorse:

Ultimately, NIL deals are here to stay, but what effect that has on young college athletes and moreover institutions’ ability to recruit them remains to be seen. Watch this space.


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