Thinking back to the past, the huge talents in sports like Michael Jordan were discovered by the most popular brands and got the opportunity to be testimonials for them by getting their own sports sponsorship deals done and to be part of big sports campaigns with a lot of money spent.

But now, a great step into further sponsorship possibilities for NCAA student-athletes has arisen. More than 500,000 NCAA student-athletes are part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association which is “a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes” (NCAA). 

In the last two years, the decision has been made that those very NCAA student-athletes are now allowed to take advantage of opportunities using their name, image and likeness (short: NIL). (NCAA).

With the new NIL opportunities, the NCAA student-athletes can now work together with brands and sign sports sponsorship deals without NCAA rules being violated.

But which important aspects should be considered for both sides to make a sports sponsorship deal successful?


As only up to 2% of NCAA student-athletes go on to be professional athletes (NFHS), it’s important to sort through a high number of NCAA student-athletes in terms of finding the right athlete for your brand. 

They should have a strong audience on social media as well as a good reputation so it would make sense to invest into the right athlete influencer to associate your brand with. Contrary, investing into someone with a fake and/or poor range on social media and getting zero results should be avoided.


Having a connection with athletes, and not seeing them only as influencers generating more popularity for your brand, leads to better success. 

A connection apart from social media through phone calls, online meetings etc. will help to consider them more than a person behind the profile on social media. If you show your interest towards them as a person and not only to their sport, success or challenges, it will be easier to generate an authentic connection which also benefits a brand fit and a successful partnership.


Working together in a partnership is the key to success. A brand should always provide opportunities to let the athlete get involved into the different steps of the partnership. How do they view and use your brand? Find a way to work together and to convey the partnership as a collaboration in which everyone gets involved. The NCAA student-athletes belong to your target audience themselves, so that you should make sure that they market to your aimed target audience with an attractive strategy on which everyone has worked together.


Having a big budget for your partnership doesn’t mean it will automatically be successful. In today’s time with so many new possibilities, you don’t need a huge marketing team nor a big budget. 

With the athlete being your collaboration partner, they have different approaches to your brand so that you should support the idea that they will try to convey your collaboration as authentically as possible in their own way.


Despite the fact that your brand might not be that popular, it doesn’t mean that your brand and content can’t go viral on social media or at least stay relevant by offering attractive content. The digital age together with social media allow you to join the new marketing era and its unique opportunities. With GenZ being active on social media and being your target audience, your brand can reach markets and customers which usually are difficult to reach.

[Source used: Entrepreneur.]

With all that being said, there are brands that have already found their right partner to promote their brands on social media:

@bonix10 – a quarterback for @oregonfootball – promoting his first sponsorship partner @drinkmilos.

@lexiisun – a volleyball player for University of Nebraska – promoting her own apparel line with @renathletics.

@tythompson – a quarterback for @oregonfootball – promoting his sponsorship partner @mcdonalds.

Do you think that the new NIL opportunities can support the NCAA student-athletes better during their time in college and beyond?  

It’s your turn to get your sports sponsorship deal done, now! Make your dream come true and “just do it” – as Shia LaBeouf would say.