FanWord Blog

Preparing for NIL: Five Factors that will Grow the Marketability of a Student-Athlete for Brand Endorsements

By FanWord

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Change is near.

Bold legislation has been drafted on the modernization of the Name, Image, and Likeness regulations within college athletics. The NCAA has officially given members of Congress the preliminary draft of this new legislation which will take effect in the 2021-2022 academic school year.

It is hard to imagine the changes this legislation will make for the college sports industry, its athletic departments, but most importantly, the student-athletes

The new rule changes will open up endless opportunities for student-athletes to benefit from their NIL. Student-athletes, regardless of their social media following, the sport they compete in, or the school they play for

So, without further ado, here are five factors that will have an impact on the brand of a student-athlete.

Learn more about our NIL program – FanWord BrandUp


There is strength in everyone’s story. Ultimately, who an athlete is as a person, not just an athlete, will be a critical aspect to their brand. Being able to have a strong sense of purpose and a clear “why” is an appealing trait to market an athlete. If an athlete can present themselves genuinely, brands that are a good fit want to affiliate with that athlete. As much as stats and performance are quick sells, in this digital age, fans are becoming much more interested in athletes off the court or field as well which will have a direct impact on brands’ ROI. Therefore, student-athletes that understand how to tell their stories on social media and other outlets will have a much more engaged audience and hence better marketability than athletes who don’t. 


Without a doubt, performance is a key contributor to an athlete’s marketability. Often, the most marketable professional athletes across all sports are peak performers in their field. These athletes usually enjoy large and engaged audiences as well as have the ability to inspire people. The specifics of an athlete’s performance can be integral to their marketability. When they perform well, where they perform well, and who they perform well with or for can be important factors to their possible net worth as an athlete. 


Location, location, location. This is even more true in college athletics! As we can see from some of the most dedicated fan bases, the specific ecosystem surrounding a university is able to breed popularity among its residents. This could be based on the size of the town, the state it is in, or other factors. A great example of how geography affects marketability is Carson Wentz. Wentz is one of the most appealing athletes in the NFL. He went to high school in Bismark, North Dakota then proceeded to compete at North Dakota State University before reaching stardom in the NFL. Yes, Wentz is a highly skilled athlete with great character, but he also found success by location.

He was able to grow his following in North Dakota over eight years, creating a strong audience for his success before playing for the Eagles. There is a lot to be said for small communities that are willing to support an athlete and help them reach his or her success. These communities will be a large factor in the NIL industry. Local businesses will take advantage of being able to partner with their area college athlete to bring in new business.

Social Media Presence

In all industries, a strong social media presence is an important representation of a person. However, in athletics specifically, it is an athlete’s main line of communication to the world. Establishing a strong social media presence now before NIL legislation solidifies, will increase a student-athlete’s marketability in the sports industry and beyond. Having a clear presence on Twitter, Instagram, and more is an appealing trait to marketers wanting to use student-athletes as a new wave of influencers. University athletes are some of the most prominent role models in the U.S. Companies will want to capitalize on their significant impact they have on industries such as athletic apparel, sports beverages, fitness, and more. If you are looking for tips to strengthen your social media presence, check out our ’10 Tips to Grow your Social Media Presence’ article.

X Factor

In order for athletes to create solid partnerships with industry leaders, they must find a way to stand out. A unique quality can come in a variety of forms through an athlete. It is most important to recognize why athletes are memorable? Good or bad, how do the most marketable athletes keep their names relevant? Zion Williamson is one of the most popular names in athletics right now and grew his fame rapidly through college and into the NBA. Some of Zion’s qualities that have elevated his marketability are: his memorable name, the unique build of his body, and his impressive play at one of the most prestigious basketball schools: Duke.

Williamson struck fame when his Nike shoe exploded 33 seconds into a collegiate game in February. An X factor can be a moment or a quality, Zion struck gold in having a combination of both. Whether you recognize his name for his performance, or for his catastrophic moment with a nike shoe, the point is you recognize the name. It is about appealing to an audience in a way no one else is doing currently.