The Power of Partnering With Student-Athletes as Hyperlocal Influencers

A ruling last month by the NCAA Division 1 Board of Governors approved an interim policy granting collegiate athletes the ability to make money from their image and likenesses.

Businesses should waste no time approaching collegiate athletes, who are considered “hometown heroes” by many, with proposals for representing their brands in local PR campaigns. Student-athletes working as hyperlocal influencers can effectively create target marketing strategies directed toward specific regions.

The NCAA decision

There has been an ongoing debate surrounding student athletes’ ability to monetize their name, image, and likenesses (NIL). Over recent years, proposals to pay college athletes have become popular, with 62% of adults believing athletes should be paid for their NIL.

Last month, the NCAA announced an interim policy allowing players from all three divisions to be paid for their NIL. Since this announcement, large companies and franchises such as the Florida Panthers announced plans to become the first major pro sports franchise to partner with college athletes. Endorsement deal speculation with star players has already begun, such as UConn’s Paige Bueckers potentially being able to make $1 million a year during her college career.

Although this is a great step forward for college athletes, it should not only benefit large companies and star players. Small businesses should partner with local college athletes for mutually beneficial relationships. Local college athletes will serve as perfect hyperlocal influencers for small businesses’ PR and marketing campaigns. Businesses should carefully consider partnerships and the benefits they can bring.

Importance Of Local PR

Local ad optimization has always been important, but today, the essential nature of local PR is indisputable. Local PR is often perceived as more authentic, which is vital for brands as 90% of consumers admit authenticity is key when deciding what brands to support. Influencer marketing by locally respected individuals delivers the experience today’s customers require.

The number of followers on social media no longer defines the effectiveness of influencers; it’s the quality of the relationship that will result in heightened engagement. Hyperlocal influencers establish a level of trust with their following that allows them to communicate on behalf of a brand on a more personal level, improving return on investment.

Athletes As Hyperlocal Influencers

Division 1 student-athletes tend to have a significant following in their communities of origin and in the area where they attend college. Their local popularity makes them perfect for serving as hyperlocal influencers. Taking advantage of the hometown or school location of a collegiate athlete is a game-changer within targeted campaigns.

The opinion of a college athlete who represents a certain school or location will resonate with alumni, neighbors, community members, and fellow students because followers share a common interest. Community members feel connected to popular locals whose careers progress to larger stages.

Instead of trying to appeal to a large number of people, athletes serving as hyperlocal influencers can create content for their specific, local following, allowing them to be perceived as authentic, trustworthy, and passionate about the brands they choose to work with. Marketing experts reveal that micro-influencers get almost60% higher engagement rates than more prominent social media presences.

A Social Network Already In Place

With their high visibility, D1 student-athletes are easily capable of expanding their media presence. In most cases, they already have an engaged social following of friends, community members, and fans on Tik Tok, Twitter, Instagram. Their pre-established platform will serve as a great starting point for a hyperlocal partnership.

These star student-athletes will be prominent during their sport season. During the off-season, they can hop on trends to stay relevant and focus more on promoting brand deals to members of their local community following.

A GoodFit Facilitates An Enduring Partnership

It is imperative to work with a collegiate athlete who aligns with your business goals and values, and who has an engaged local following in a region you are interested in targeting. As a college athlete becomes heavily associated with your business, you want to ensure the partnership is logical.

A Division 1 athlete’s attributes of determination and hard work, or personal story can be used to a marketing advantage. Connecting the positive traits of the athlete to your brand will result in authenticity that consumers crave while creating sincerity within the marketing partnership.

Pre-professional athletes must uphold certain ethical standards to remain on a team. This makes them great influencers as they are unlikely to become involved in scandals that might be associated with the businesses they represent.

Long-term Benefits

Partnering with a college athlete offers immediate and local benefits, but it can also establish a connection that may result in a valuable, long-term relationship. If the athlete progresses to professional status in their sport, their following and your brand’s publicity will grow significantly.

By partnering with a collegiate athlete now, they will be associated with your brand from the beginning and will strengthen the genuine feel of the influencer’s message. This is essential for follower engagement and conversion to purchase your products and services.

Contract Considerations

Negotiating a NIL contract that respects the rights of both the business and the collegiate athlete/hyperlocal influencer is essential.

The flexibility, talent, and creativity of the influencer must be respected and rewarded. Metrics used to evaluate goals must be included to protect the business. A thorough understanding of points of consideration regarding influencer contracts, by both parties, ensures a successful partnership.

Successful Partnerships

The ruling by the NCAA enabling collegiate athletes to make money from their image and likenesses is a great opportunity for collegiate athletes, but also for businesses who should hire them as hyperlocal influencers. Students now have the opportunity to monetize their hard work and businesses can gain brand exposure to engaged audiences.

Ron L. Brown is Co-Founder of Athlete Essentials, a wealth management firm dedicated to helping professional athletes make the most of their career earnings. Athlete Essentials takes pride in their work with athletes to develop a strategy for sound investment decisions, cash flow management and business planning. Learn more at