The floodgates were opened when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced that athletes would soon be able to get benefits based upon their “name and image” on June 30, 2013. This allowed collegiate athletes to earn money from the USA based on their student status.
Not surprisingly, several companies wasted little time in inking so-called NIL deals with elite NCAA athletes — including a growing number in the travel industry. Kayvon Thibodeaux, University of Oregon’s defensive end, and Kenny Pickett from the University of Pittsburgh have signed deals with United Airlines (and the Oaklander Hotel) respectively.
It’s possible that these deals are just the beginning as many experts believe travel and tourism businesses will look more closely at NCAA athletes to reach their targeted markets.
What is the purpose of travel and tourism business getting into this game?
It’s brand awareness. It enables hotels and airlines to connect with potential customers who follow the school (and) the athlete,” said Timothy Derdenger, an associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper of Business who has, among other things, researched Tiger Woods’s impact on Nike’s golf business.
The company’s perspective on “Name, Image, and Likeness” is pure marketing — it ties your product or service to another brand. In this instance, the athlete.
Certainly, the NIL market is shaping up to be enormous — at least a $1 billion-a-year industry, according to Blake Lawrence, the CEO and founder of Opendorse, a sports tech company that helps connect athletes with NIL opportunities — if it isn’t already. INFLCR, a platform that works with more than 170 NCAA Division I athletic departments to help athletes land NIL opportunities, saw a flurry of first month activity. Athletes at institutions partnered with the Alabama-based company reported more than 1,300 NIL transactions in July.
How do travel and tourism agencies decide which athletes they will partner with? Popularity is clearly a major factor. “Unless the owner or marketing director of the company has a personal relationship with an athlete, the majority will be seeking athletes with a large following either because they are good with social media and are stars of the team,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, an associate professor of sport management at the George Washington University School of Business.
It may seem obvious but Derdenger says that businesses will seek out athletes and teams who have a strong connection with their products.
You won’t get a basketball player to help promote your Oregon golf resort. He said that you will not get any golfers from Oregon, or the national championship teams to promote your resort.
One tourism brand that has definitely reached out to athletes with deep connections to not only targeted markets but its core products is Orlando North, the destination marketing organization for Seminole County, Florida. Gui Cunha, tourism director, stated that the DMO signed NIL agreements with many athletes from Seminole County to help promote their “Game On” campaign. This was designed to notify event organizers and families, as well as athletes, about its reopening for tournaments.
We’ve taken a strategic approach to our content library, where we are looking at, “Okay.” Cunha stated that softball was the most important need for our content library.
Orlando North signed a $2,000 contract with Kaley Mudge of Florida State University, who set the college softball world series records during the 2021 College World Series. The DMO is working with Mudge and other endorsers — such as former James Madison University star Odicci Alexander — to help Seminole County attract women’s sports tournaments as part of the “Game On” campaign.
Cunha thinks that big names such as Alexander and Mudge make Seminole Country a desirable destination for softball players. But what does this endorser do for Orlando North, he asked? Cunha said they promoted Seminole County. The county has seen a rise in sports tourism since 2015. The athletes are doing something even more.
They provide the content we need to promote. He said that, whereas we used to have only 10-20 authentic assets or photos, we now have hundreds of them after the NIL deals. The true value to us is the ability to tell our story for a longer time.
Cunha said that the Seminole County NIL agreements have proven to be successful in other areas as well, including a rise in YouTube followers and an increase in engagement rates after promotional materials are posted.
Who should you target
Seminole County is using NCAA athletes to reach out to a younger audience, which doesn’t surprise Thilo Kunkel. This is one benefit of working with travel and tourism businesses, according to a Temple University professor.
Kunkel, who is a professor at Temple’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management and Hospitality Management and also directs the Sports Industry Center, said, “I believe (travel companies), are certain to benefit especially because they are reaching an extremely specific audience.”
Kunkel specifically targeted a young audience who likes to travel active. Kunkel believes that travel companies that specialize in activities such as rock climbing and sufing would be well-advised to form partnerships with students who are passionate about sports.
Carnegie Mellon’s Derdenger thinks that tourism and travel companies will not target a young market. He said, “If you are targeting the college quarterback for the local football team, this will have a huge draw not only on the 18-24-year olds but also alumni from all demographics who follow the team.”
He believes that travel companies view partnership opportunities with NCAA athletes as an opportunity to connect to alumni. It’s not surprising that alumni have more money than the rest to travel and enjoy resorts. Certain, it’s more than college students.
Kunkel believes that travel and tourism businesses should use student-athletes in order to access a new market, potential overseas tourists. Kunkel believes that international student-athletes, especially from countries where travel brands target, have huge opportunities for success in NIL deals. Cunha mentioned Canada, where Swoop and Flair, two of the world’s largest airlines fly into Seminole County.
But Kunkel noted the issue of whether international travel student-athletes can benefit from NIL deals is definitely fuzzy. Although Orlando North agreed to an NIL agreement with Minori Nagano, a Japanese golfer from Seminole State College was not. Cunha admitted that he depends on the compliance departments of these institutions before negotiating any international agreements.
Money is important
How much do student-athletes get paid when they sign deals with tourism and travel companies? Many times, it is not.
Mudge is being paid $2,000 by Orlando North because she provided services such as a podcast interview, photo and video shoots as well as major softball stars. However, every other person who signed NIL contracts with the DMO has received less than $500. Cunha stated that Orlando North will not be financially crippled by its partnership with college athletes. The company is spending just one percent of its budget towards those deals.
While stories like University of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young earning close to $1 million in NIL deals before ever having started a game at the collegiate level are the first to jump out at fans, the figure Cunha gave for Orlando North’s typical NIL deal is in line with what most student-athletes have gotten. The average Division I athlete using Opendorse in July earned $471 while the monthly median figure was only $35.
Although not always lucrative, student-athletes can still benefit from the travel opportunities provided by companies. Delpy Negrotti of George Washington, an expert in sports tourism, sees athletes as the beneficiaries of in-kind offers for free or reduced hotel room rates.
Kunkel already witnessed student-athletes taking advantage of such opportunities, in one instance local athletes helping to run a Jersey Shore hotel. He said, “They’re not necessarily a thousand-dollar sponsorship deals, but they’re a hundred bucks here and there.”
Finally, and most importantly, these opportunities are plentiful for athletes not featured on ESPN, as demonstrated by Orlando North signing. Derdenger is one example.
He said, “Think of a company running a whitewater-rafting tour down Colorado River.” You could think of a swimming team from an elite college in California, Nevada or Arizona with that kind of brand recognition. It would be great to have (that swimmer), come down and endorse the service that you provide along Colorado River.
“Depending on the industry and the services that the company offers, I believe there are many opportunities for people other than basketball players.”
Publited Fri, 3 Sep 2021 at 14:41:44 +0000