Times sure have changed, especially for college athletics. Since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, which now allows student athletes to get paid from their name, image and likeness – more commonly referred to as “NIL” – a huge focus is often on those who compete at schools with big-time sports programs.
Given the sheer size of some of the NIL deals signed by players who attend the NCAA’s Division-I schools, it’s rather obvious to assume only schools with larger student bodies and well-funded budgets to support their athletic programs can get in on the action.
A perfect example is Paige Bueckers. The star guard for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, Buekers is set to amass more than US$1 million for her athletic talents by way of deals with Gatorade and other companies.
And perhaps the most notable beneficiary of the new NIL sweepstakes, the University of Alabama’s Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young is already worth an estimated $3.2 million, thanks to deals inked with Nissan, Dr. Pepper and Dollar Shave Club, to name a few.
Though the certainty surrounding lucrative endorsement deals for athletes at D-I schools is now a foregone conclusion, it’s easy to assume players representing smaller, more financially modest schools – community colleges in particular – could be left out in what has been dubbed the “NIL era.”
However, a recent study conducted by The University of Louisville’s Adam Cocco, Assistant Professor of Sport Administration, and Dr Anita Moorman, Professor of Sport Administration, suggests that’s not necessarily the case.
Within the article Mr. Cocco and Dr. Moorman published in the Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, they concluded that athletes from community college can earn as much as $48 per sponsored post on Instagram. Though that number is a bucket-full compared to the swimming pool-sized deals worth millions Division I athletes can command. Nevertheless, the opportunity for student athletes to self-promote themselves, who often struggle to meet their basic needs, to earn $48 per Instagram post is certainly worth pursuing when chasing their dreams of competing at the next level of their respective sports.
From The Math Comes The Money
To achieve the $48 figure, Cocco and Moorman created a way to calculate how much a player should be paid per sponsored Instagram post. The estimation incorporated not just how many followers a student athlete has, but the amount of “likes” and comments generated per post.
The formula? Combining how many followers an athlete has, as well as how many likes and comments each post generates with the amount a company was willing to pay for such exposure. To figure out what a company’s willing to pay, an analysis of the going rates was assessed.
The equation? Of the 23,248 athletes competing in the California Community College Athletic Association during the 2019-2020 athletic season, 1,168 athletes – or about 5% – had public Instagram profiles with 1,000 followers or more. These athletes were then deemed potential social media influencers and applied standard influencer marketing rates to solve how much money each could command per sponsored post on Instagram.
The result? Companies would be willing to pay $10 to reach at least 1,000 people.
Based on those calculations, Cocco and Moorman found 11 community college athletes with an earnings estimate over $200 per sponsored post. An average male community college athlete could earn about $47 per post. And our calculations show that the average female athlete could earn $51 per sponsored Instagram post – $4 more than the men. This difference is driven by the ability of female athletes to generate more engagement on their Instagram posts.
Overall, almost 93% of the athletes in our sample had an NIL value estimate between $20 and $100 per sponsored post.
This is just a fraction of the average NIL value of a sponsored Instagram post for a Division I athlete, which is over $500. Still, every dollar counts, especially when you’re a community college student.