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5 Tips for Working with College Athlete Influencers

September 7, 2021

The NCAA recently announced a new rule that allows college athletes to sign their own sponsorship deals. This is great news for college athletes, as they can now earn income from their personal images and profiles. 

For brands, this means access to a new population of influencers who have the potential to provide fresh perspectives, content, and audiences. However, there are new challenges that come with working with a new population of influencers - and college athletes are no different. 

Below are five tips to help you get started:

Check brand compatibility.

When identifying influencer partners, it’s important to ensure that the creators are aligned with your brand mission and values. This still holds true with potential college athlete partners. When checking for compatibility, do a deep dive to get an understanding of their audience (What do they care about? What is their general tone?), and do an analysis of the content they are producing (What topics do they typically discuss? Are there causes they care about? Do they have existing product affinities?).  

Conduct a brand safety analysis.

Next check for alignment with brand values. Failing to do so may result in unwanted scandals or damage to your brand’s image. When conducting a brand safety check, start by defining which topics are sensitive or damaging for your brand, then compare that against your potential partner’s content. Technology, like Traackr’s brand safety features, can support this process by checking past content on all social channels for red flag topics. 

Prepare for an adjustment period.

Even though college athletes may be used to having an audience, it may take some time for them to find their footing as influencers. Remember that being a social media influencer and brand ambassador may be very new to them. In these cases, it’s important to be a good partner by helping them understand the rules of sponsored content, and figure out what tone, content, and platform works best for them. Doing this successfully will help you create deep, long lasting relationships and build brand loyalty.

Insight: Degree’s #BreakingLimits initiative is a great example of how a brand is thinking beyond single sponsorships, and working to create long-lasting relationships. Not only did the Unilever-owned brand hire a diverse panel of influencers for this campaign, it committed to mentoring these influencers and investing in programs “in their own community that allow them to inspire others”. Purpose-driven initiatives always win big!

Be mindful of bandwidth.

Unlike other influencers, college athletes already have two jobs - being a student and an athlete. Building strong relationships with them may be reliant on keeping this in mind, being flexible and providing additional support and resources when needed. 

Do your regulation research.

In addition to following FTC and state laws, the NCAA has mentioned that this population of influencers will also need to follow individual school rules and conference requirements. In fact, it has been reported that some schools are already blocking students from working with brands that compete with an existing sponsor. This doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it to work with this set of influencers, it just means that you may need to put in some extra research to make sure you and your partner are being compliant with all the relevant rules.

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