Atlanta – Duke track athlete Emily Cole has been building her social media presence since high school. With encouragement from her older sister, a country music singer, Cole began sharing hidden aspects of her training regimen, eating habits and life as a student-athlete, before the NCAA changed its rules. rules regarding name, image and likeness.
“So I’m really grateful that I was able to have that head start,” Cole told WRAL News. “This year, everything exploded.”
Cole, who won All-America honors in the steeplechase this month, was among more than 400 athletes and college administrators at the inaugural NIL Summit at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. She was a panelist in a session on financial literacy. The NCAA allowed athletes to enjoy their name, image and likeness (NIL) on July 1, a sweeping rule change that has led to unprecedented opportunities for athletes like Cole.
Cole, who has more than 7.2 million likes and more than 160,000 fans on the short-form video app TikTok, has signed deals with tax prep company H&R Block and powdered beetroot concentrate BeetElite. In January, she won $10,000 in a TikTok challenge by Icon Source, an athlete marketing company. His book The Player’s Plate is due out in September. It is both a cookbook and a practical guide for athletes in training.
“It really helps me integrate a lot of concepts into the book, namely: it’s not just about what’s physically on your plate, but also the saying not to have too much on your plate with life. in general,” said Cole, who interviewed several dietitians and Olympic champions for the book.
“I know that as athletes we face a lot of societal and psychological pressures that can also come from finding your optimal fuel. These are the things I talk about in the book.
Cole went viral in 2021 when she posted a video seeking a date for an official college event. Ohio State lacrosse player Mitchell Pehlke responded, and the two became social media sensations, boosting Cole’s follower count.
“I’m really, really grateful that I got to have this opportunity, to meet him and share my platform through this. That’s not what I want to focus on,” said Cole, a computer science student from Houston. “Now I can share my journey with sports nutrition, athletics and running because it helped me grow a little more.”
“Curious” and “without any idea”
Other athletes have come to Atlanta seeking training and opportunities in the new NIL space. There were water polo players from Fordham and rowers from Stanford. Some schools, such as Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State, have brought up to 10 athletes and multiple administrators to the event.
The three-day event kicked off with an official NIL awards ceremony and continued with sessions on a variety of topics. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, Super Bowl champion Jerome Bettis and WWE Superstar Paul “Triple H” Levesque were among the speakers.
“There are a lot of student-athletes here from a lot of different places, and they’re just as curious as I am,” said UNC soccer tight end Kamari Morales. “They’re just as clueless as I am about certain things and they’re just as curious.”
Morales said he did paid autograph sessions under the new NIL rules. But he is looking for more.
“It motivated me to be more active on social media,” he said. ” It’s a little difficult. You might see it as “this is cringe” or “I can’t believe I’m doing this”, but there are people out there who would love to see this content. So I will definitely challenge myself to be more active on things like TikTok.
In the year since NIL became a reality in college athletics, much of the focus has been on players receiving recruiting incentives, largely through new collectives linked to schools, presented as NIL agreements. The NCAA said such inducements are still against the rules, but there is a lack of enforcement around it. The summit largely avoided this aspect of NIL. Instead, he focused on athletes hoping to build a brand and find opportunity.
“A lot of people when they think of NIL, they keep thinking about pay-to-play. But that’s not the vibe we get here,” the State Football offensive lineman said. North Carolina, Tim McKay “It’s about building a brand for yourself, marketing yourself and building something that lasts longer than your playing career.”
Several speakers told athletes that there is value in their individual brands. Cole organizes cross country and distance track events, unattractive college sporting events.
“Don’t be afraid to start,” Cole said. “It doesn’t matter how many followers you have or how big your platform is. … You’re going to feel uncomfortable when you start talking to a camera and making videos that you’re streaming for who knows who. is And so you really have to figure out what you’re most comfortable doing and what avenues you can be most yourself in and really capitalize on that.
“And people are going to love seeing your story.”
Schools are accelerating
Jim Cavale is the CEO of INFLCR, pronounced “influencer,” who is owned by Durham-based Teamworks. The INFLCR, one of the summit’s major sponsors, is under contract with more than 200 NCAA Division I schools – including Duke, UNC and NC State – to provide an app and other software services to help in name, image and likeness. The company manufactures products that allow athletes to share images and videos on their social networks. It also makes compliance products and a marketplace for businesses and athletes to connect.
“It’s isolated for some sports and even within those sports, only for some athletes,” Cavale said of the big dollar deals reported for rookies and transfers. “It’s not the wider NIL. It’s more of a one, two or three percent isolation part of NIL.
A common theme throughout the event was that athletes wanted more information, advice, expertise and help in navigating name, image and likeness. Schools have reacted to the new rules, as well as varying state laws and NCAA minimum guidelines, in a variety of ways. Duke’s men’s basketball program recently hired former Nike marketing executive Rachel Baker as its first general manager to help athletes with NIL and branding.
Cavale, a former Division II college baseball player, said he believes big changes are happening in college sports, thanks in large part to social media. He signed on to several programs, including Kentucky and Auburn, to use their software to give athletes access to school-produced content, allowing them to share it on social media, bolstering their own brands and recruiting efforts. school.
As for where NIL is going? Cavale envisions a variety of changes to come — unionization or collective bargaining at some point, changes in the structure of college athletics, national regulations, a better sense of the market by corporations and athletes. One thing is certain to happen: more help.
“Schools will have more resources to support student-athletes,” he said. “Not necessarily controlling them, but supporting them.”