Personal Branding for College Athlete Sponsorship

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NCAA athletes can now benefit from commercial use of their Name, Image, and Likeness. The long-anticipated rule-change from the pedestal of college sports has allowed massive opportunity for students and advertisers to legally pursue promotional opportunity by tying top collegiate athletes to top brands and businesses.

While this may just be business as usual for advertisers, student-athletes have already found themselves managing the extra pressure to perform both on and off the field.

So, how can NCAA athletes get sponsorships while taking control of their Name, Image, and Likeness? Our team of publicists and marketing pros with experience in college sports and professional sports journalism provide insight on how personal branding for college athletes is just a steppingstone to promotional success.

Start Building Your College Athlete Personal Brand, NOW.

The best thing you can do to get your name out there in an effective way is to start building a personal brand around your name, your values, the sport in which you participate, and the lifestyle that comes with it all. Throughout this process, keep in mind that a good personal brand is focused on addressing specific audiences and will establish recognition and trust with the right people, at the right time, in the right place.

This seems simple but developing and maintaining a brand that accomplishes all this is hard work and takes a fair amount of research and planning. It involves thinking about both long-term and short-term outcomes, developing a full understanding of your target audiences, and outlining a plan for how you will consistently address the needs and wants of that audience into the future.

If your main goal is to build recognition to get sponsorship opportunities, you will not only want to focus on growing your fan base but will also need to start thinking about what sponsors might want to see. Do your research and find out what your, or similar, fan bases are talking about. What interests them and how will your brand tie into the trends you find?


Yes, The Sponsors are Watching.

When these companies hire an individual to endorse their brand, products, or services, they are looking for someone that has what we call perceived value. While there are many college athletes with recognizable names and faces, their perceived value lies in their fan-base, the way they present themselves online, the causes or values they support, and of course, potential alignment with their brads target market and offering.

Every student-athlete should keep in mind that they are not the audience. Just because you like something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will resonate with the best audience for your brand. Your research will tell you which areas you should focus your branding and content.

For example, if you find a high demand for nutritional advice within your following, and that happens to be something you care or know about as well, you may look to build brand content on that topic. Who knows, a supplement company or the newest health meal delivery service could come your way with the deal of a lifetime.

If your goal is just to put yourself out there to see what comes your way, stop yourself there, get out your laptop, and DO YOUR RESEARCH. Figure out who your fans are, who you want them to be, what they care about, and start to align your brand messaging there.


How do I Get All This Information?

There are two main questions to keep in mind when doing market analysis for your personal brand: 1) How big is the market? And 2) what are their core behaviors?

You always want to make sure you have a full understanding of how many people are searching for a specific topic and exactly how many sponsors are active within that market. This will allow you to build a larger, more defined picture of your band that will help to indicate a focal point.

Check out these free tools to help you get started with your market research:

  • Google Trends – Discover the latest stories and trends via search query on the most powerful search engine in the world.
  • Facebook Insights – Look at trends surrounding your current or potential audience on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Consumer Barometer – Use AI to determine what trends matter to your demographics within your audience.
  • Pew Research Center – Gather information on social issues, opinion, and demographic trends.

Competitor analysis will also help you define your personal brand goals and market. You need to find those individuals that are already engaging in your chosen market, discover how they interact, and identify what does or does not work for them.

If you can start to do these things as a student-athlete and can commit yourself to develop a personal brand that fits a niche and market that you identify with, you will have set up a foundation that will aid you in gaining potential sponsorship opportunities.

If you have practice, workouts, homework, or other responsibilities, make sure to schedule a free 15-minute consultation with one of the Otter PR experts. We have worked with thousands of thought leaders, influencers, and businesses and are happy to help you build a brand that resonates with fans and sponsors alike. We may even be able to connect you directly with internal sponsorship opportunities.

If you found this information useful, please share this video and the blog that comes with it with your fellow athletes, colleagues, and friends. And make sure to subscribe to our channel for more ways to build your brand, get media placements, and more.

Devin Leonardi

Devin Leonardi

Devin is a full-stack marketing expert with experience driving lead generation across multiple industries and disciplines. His unique insight into creative design and branding place him at the top of his craft in creating public relations and marketing campaigns that convert time and time again.
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