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Forget NIL Payments - The Next College Recruiting Edge Will Come From Social Media Promotion

Today Elon Musk CEO and majority owner of Twitter announced that his website would begin sharing revenue with content creators on ads placed in their tweet’s reply threads. Twitter’s policy change is one of many shifts in the industry including Alphabet Inc’s Youtube announcement that advertising on Youtube shorts would also generate royalties for influencers. As content creators are increasingly able to monetize their creations, the impact on college athletics could become profound.

After NIL was formally approved in 2021 the majority sentiment was that while a few extremely popular athletes might be seen in nationwide advertising campaigns, the largest effect would be seen from local car dealership partnerships or enthusiastic alumni meet and greets. To an extent, this has been true as Bryce Young, Hanna Cavinder, and Bo Nix have featured in major national advertising campaigns while local advertisers have supported schools both through NIL collectives and small-scale advertising. However, the most potent tool that college athletes have capitalized upon has occurred by leveraging their social media influence. Olivia Dunne (3.2 Million Instagram followers), Travis Hunter (135 thousand Youtube subscribers), and Paige Bueckers (1 million Instagram followers) are just a few of the many college athletes turned content creators who have, to this point, have largely profited from advertising in their content itself. While college recruiting has quickly been muddied with accusations that athletes now select their school by following the highest bidding NIL collective, athletes may quickly realize that they may be better off going where they can best develop their personal brand.

The motivation for building a personal brand rather than partnering with an NIL collective might become more pressing as NIL collectives quickly realize that they don’t have the financial firepower necessary to secure the greatest players. The best example of this came from Gainesville when news of Jaden Rashada’s alleged $13 million NIL collective deal shook the college recruiting world when the quarterback recruit originally committed to the University of Florida. TV talking heads quickly began debating if $13 million would become the new floor for securing top-tier talent at priority positions. The problem, however, was that the NIL collective was unable to come up with the money promised, and once Rashada was made aware, he requested a release from his letter of intent and selected Arizona State. Meanwhile, coaches like Colorado’s Deion Sanders have downplayed NIL potential while encouraging athletes to create Youtube channels and build their personal brands.

With athletes unable to rely on school-centric NIL deals, and new revenue-earning opportunities quickly becoming available on social media, top college athletes should instead consider what University will be able to best promote their personal brand on a national stage. Unlike NIL funding which can be quickly pulled and disappears as soon as an athlete leaves campus, social media influence can allow athletes to generate revenue consistently. Moving forward, expect Universities to place an emphasis on how they can generate attention and spotlight for their athletes. Facilities and NIL deals are now the status quo. The future recruiting edge in college recruiting will belong to the schools that have the best graphic designers, social media managers, and content creators that athletes can benefit from.

Chase Youngman is a third-year law student at Penn State Law where he was the president of the Penn State Law Sports Entertainment Law Society. You can also find him on Twitter as @c3youngman

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