Money Smart Athlete Blog

Branding and Marketing Strategies for College Athletes

By Marianna Kazazi, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy 

College athletes’ careers can go beyond their sport, since they have the opportunity to transform themselves into influential representatives of brands by strategically utilizing their name, image and likeness (NIL). Recent changes in the landscape of college sports have paved the way for athletes to further capitalize on their NIL, creating endless options and opportunities for them to build their personal brands and implement successful marketing strategies.

The athlete’s journey towards building a successful brand and utilizing an effective marketing strategy begins with a clear understanding of what their personal brand could be. Specifically, athletes need to define who they are in order to eventually determine what they want to represent through their brand. An easy way to do this is by considering what makes them more than an athlete and why people should be interested in them, considering their values, skills and passions and what differentiates them from others. After identifying their fundamental brand characteristics, athletes can start planning their action steps for the creation of their personal brand.

As student-athletes discover their unique attributes and brand potential, they need expert guidance in order to create a strategic and successful path. Therefore, it is crucial for student athletes to seek professional advisors -preferably ones who have experience in working with athletes- such as sports agents, marketing experts, or branding specialists, in order to help them navigate the business aspects of their career. These professionals can also advise athletes on endorsement deal negotiations, brand partnerships management and provide insights as to how they can maximize their earning potential.

In the digital era we live in, it has become imperative for athletes to establish an online presence through social media. To be more precise, athletes should craft a strategic approach to their online presence, one that showcases their accomplishments, passions outside of sport, charity endeavors and their personality in general. Furthermore, it is important that they generate captivating and interactive content that aligns with their brand identity and builds a strong connection with their target audience. Additionally, athletes can leverage their social media platforms to actively engage with their fans and supporters, including reposting content they’ve been tagged in, among other activities.

College athletes can also start exploring endorsement opportunities, merchandise sales, and promotional ventures that align with their brand, always complying with NCAA regulations to ensure eligibility while capitalizing on these lucrative opportunities. Athletes should understand that their college years mark the initial phase of their careers. As they strategize for the future, they should think about how their personal brand can continue to grow after their college years and into the future.

In conclusion, college athletes are embarking on a promising journey where their sports careers can act as the foundation to developing their personal brands. By harnessing their NIL strategically, they have the potential to shift from just being sports stars to successfully becoming influential icons.

The Money Smart Athlete® Blog is established and run by the Sports Financial Literacy Academy® (SFLA). Through its education programs, the SFLA has the vision to financially educate and empower athletes of all ages to become better people, not just better athletes. For more information on our courses, our SFLA Approved Trainer Program®, and how they can benefit you and your clients, please get in touch with us at