July 2023

How are You Trending? The Most Important Thing in Determining Sponsorship and NIL Valuations

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Understanding the valuation of sponsorship and NIL rights is crucial for making informed decisions.

Decisions that can significantly impact their financial future and brand presence. This also includes collegiate athletes since the landscape of collegiate athletics has substantially changed with the relatively recent Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) opportunities that have created a sea of opportunity with little to no direction, instruction or experience for young and impressionable student athletes to lean on.

Athletes are struggling to understand their value, it may be exciting to get any deal but these opportunities also have trap athletes into signing up for things they don't fully understand. While some others are turning down lucrative opportunities due to not understanding the exchange in value.

Some people only believe in cash, but there's a reason that many of today's most influential athletes are either investing their own money in companies, or are accepting equity and royalties (non-direct cash payments) that could end up being much more than their immediate impression.

There are certain key factors that contribute to determining an athlete's sponsorship and NIL value, using a starting metric of $10 per 1k audience as a foundational measure and an in depth understanding of how an athlete is trending, future performance, and projections of how these opportunities will likely play out in the future.

related: What Do Athletes And Commodities Have In Common?

How are you trending?

related: The World Cup 2023 and the Viral Power of Goals

It's the most important thing to understand. If you know you're about to get cut you may want to gather as many deals as possible since this may be your last opportunity and your value may be quickly declining.

If you know you're about to blow up, having finally figured it out and you're killing it in practice, you may want to hold off on or bargain for more knowing you're going to give them a much better return on investment.

Assess Your Personal Brand

The foundation of determining sponsorship and NIL value lies in conducting an honest assessment of your personal brand. Consider your on-field performance, off-field persona, and engagement with fans on social media. Highlight your unique selling points and characteristics that set you apart from others.

Brands are always saying that they seek authentic athletes with engaged audiences that align with their image, values, and target markets. But just how "someone nice" is often a trait cited in seeking a mate, they aren't just looking for nice athletes they are looking for influence.

Influence that is trending upwards or stable and in demand is the most coveted. Brands want to maximize their dollar and get the greatest return on their investment.

Audience Valuation

Your social media presence plays a significant role in your sponsorship and NIL value. Start by evaluating the size and engagement of your online following across various platforms. With a starting metric of $10 per 1k audience, calculate the potential monetary value of your followers. A substantial and engaged fan base attracts sponsors looking to tap into your audience for increased exposure and impact. This baseline doesn't take into account any personal variables or the power of the audience you'll be commanding.

If you're about to play in front of millions in the World Cup, your audience is substantially more valuable than someone who may have a large following yet doesn't have the opportunity for any airtime or viral moments. A breakout star (like that wild card in fantasy who's always one play away from breaking off a big play) is what steals the headlines and gets you paid.

People want excitement. In sports, it's performance in the real world it's the same thing but measured in entertainment or authority.

Assess On-Field Performance and Achievements

Your on-field success and achievements directly impact your sponsorship and NIL value. Showcase your accolades, records, and noteworthy performances to highlight your talent and dedication. Brands are drawn to athletes who excel in their sport and have a track record of success, as it enhances their marketability and credibility.

related: Performance > Audience when deciding where to place your efforts

Marketability and Credibility

Building a strong personal brand that reflects integrity, professionalism, and authenticity contributes to your marketability and credibility. Brands seek athletes who embody positive public images and align with their values. Fostering credibility and authenticity enhances your appeal to potential sponsors and endorsement opportunities.

Just because you have a large audience doesn't make you credible endorsing certain types of products. Your public persona and credibility play a huge part in your ability to perform and to maximize any endorsement opportunities. Your influence may help drive sales of a sports drink but you may be quickly ignored and discredited trying to pitch products that are outside your expertise and influence, especially if it doesn't align with your audience.

related: Would You Rather Be The Most Influential or Most Marketable?

Leverage Your Network

Who are you around? Potential sponsors may be eyeing your network and may have identified you as someone close enough to an out of reach star that you may be the next best thing. There's a reason the bench players of some teams playing with a high megawatt athlete have shoe deals. Steph Curry and LeBron James are the main draw everywhere they go. If you're going to be standing next to them every game, use this to your advantage.

A great example is how Steph Curry is often associated with his wife's wine brand. Sharing the same name helps, but without being tied to Steph Curry, would opportunities of this sort be as prevalent? Likely not, but if you find yourself in similar circumstances, use it to your advantage. And make sure you equate this into your valuation.

related: How Wine Culture is Following Nike's Playbook to Collaborate with Athletes

Determining your sponsorship and NIL value as an athlete involves self-assessment, brand building, audience valuation, and leveraging your network.

By understanding your unique brand attributes, engaging with your audience, showcasing your on-field achievements, and fostering credibility, you can unlock the true potential of your personal brand.  In the new era of NIL, strategic brand management can lead to endless possibilities for personal and financial growth in the world of sports.

Also remember to be careful signing away any rights to your likeness, this can have a lasting impact and you don't want to be locked into any thing long term that isn't reflective of your current value. Always have an attorney review any contracts before signing.

Issa Hall, Esq

Issa has founded multiple ventures, is an author, and founding partner of Hall & Dixon law firm, with over a decade of experience in tech and law.

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