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Matthew Boling: From the Track to the Trail

Learn how the blazing Georgia Bulldog is leveraging his track talents for a unique NIL partnership with outdoor footwear company Merrell.

It’s 9:00 a.m. in Athens, Georgia and the campus is buzzing. As the denizens of the University of Georgia meander from weekday lecture halls and pine for weekend tailgate parties, the country’s fastest student-athlete is starting a day most folks his age — or any age — couldn’t keep up with.

Beginning with breakfast, Bulldogs senior sprinter Matthew Boling embarks on classes until 1 p.m. Sneaking in a quick and calculated lunch, he hits track practice at 3 p.m. which runs literally and figuratively to 7 p.m. After that, it’s dinner, studying, and sleep. The reward? Right back to the same schedule the next day.

Well, maybe there are more benefits than just that.

Back in April, Boling ran the 100m dash in 9.98 seconds. In May, he doubled down by recording a 9.97 time. Winning four gold medals at the 2019 Pan American Championship, the Houston-raised runner has gone viral in track circles — and become a breakout social media star along the way.

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Amassing over 226,000 followers on Instagram and over 983,000 followers on TikTok, keeping up with Matthew’s race pace rise is just as hard in the digital world as it is on the track. Making the most of surging popularity in the era of name, image, and likeness, the Georgia Bulldog signed with Excel Sports Management to take his business to another level.

“I started working with Excel back in August,” Boling tells Boardroom. “I got in contact, I did my research, and I really trusted Excel to help me get to where I need to be. It’s been great ever since.”

Great may be an understatement. Earning national brand deals ranging from electric razors to coffee, Boling may have a student’s workload, but his overall buzz is on pace with the pros. Once again, Excel is able to help.

“School is a lot of work,” Boling says. “Track is also a lot of work. Being a student-athlete already is very difficult as it is, so it’s nice for me to be able to trust the agency to help navigate me through that space. [It’s] the same way I would trust my coach to help me through my practices and the same way I would trust my academic counselors to help me schedule my appointments and make sure I’m good on that side of things.”

Today, Excel and Boling are once again moving at lightspeed in the world of NIL, most recently signing a partnership with outdoor sporting goods company Merrell. With one stroke of the pen, the fast feet of Boling had entered an elaborate, intricate world of footwear endorsement deals typically too high-profile for amateur athletes to breach.

Photo courtesy of Merrell

“I was really excited,” Boling says of the pact. “When the Merrell partnership came about, I was excited because I’ve got family back in Colorado and I enjoy going there a lot and running on trails. Being able to work with a brand that fits my lifestyle and supports my needs? My feet are the most important thing. That’s my job. So, working with the brand that really supports that was really great.”

While the NIL monetization era is only in its infancy for amateur athletes, footwear partnerships remain elusive for even the elite due to the strong existing relationships between universities and the world’s biggest athletic outfitters. For instance, UConn basketball standout Azzi Fudd signed with the Under Armour-owned Curry Brand, but she plays basketball for a Nike school. That means the Curry campaigns exist predominately out-of-season, as she’s required to play on-court in the Swoosh.

For Matthew Boling, meanwhile, the Merrell move makes perfect sense, as their product translates to trail and lifestyle and poses no conflict with the Nike tights and sprinting shoes he and his teammates don for UGA. So, on social media and out in the wild, Matthew can showcase Merrell for his fans, followers, and friends in properly organic fashion.

@matthewboling

2022 season officially over. Joined the sub 10/20 club and 27 foot club in long jump this year. Been dreaming about hitting those marks since I first started the sport in the 6th grade. Excited to rest up and get back to fall training in a couple months.

♬ Jimmy Cooks – Drake
@matthewboling

Me looking at comments 😂

“Outdoor trail running and hiking plays into my everyday life,” says Boling. “During the summer I spent a lot of time in Colorado. This year I was able to see my family there for a while. In the off-season, I’ve gotta stay in shape and do something different than just sprinting on the track. So playing into my life, I’m able to stay in shape, train, and get the best performance out of myself while having a relaxing scenery and kind of just being able to get away from the oval of the track.”

The life of a student-athlete being as frequently monotonous as it is, Matthew Boling has scored a special kind of win by virtue of being able to keep training off the track — something he would have kept doing anyway — and turning it into some extra money in his pocket with a perfect-fit NIL endorsement. Moving forward, perhaps long after his college days are done, he has a chance to play a key role in helping Merrell gain an inside position with a Gen Z audience.

“Merrell feels right as a partner for me just being able to get the best performance I can out of any situation. If I’m training on the trails or running hills at a higher speed, I’m able to get the most traction, the most speed, and the highest performance. That was what was optimal for me.”

Photo courtesy of Merrell

Whether racing up rocks or tackling slick terrains, Boling lists the MTL Long Sky 2 and Agility Peak 4 as his favorite footwear models. Unsure what speed training in the great outdoors looks like for the fastest kid in college track?

Give the man a follow and you’ll find out soon.

“Fans can expect some great content dropping with Merrell,” he hints. “I’m excited to try out their new products so just expect some great content.”

While all of this is big for Boling, it’s big for Merrell, too. The relatable runner with blazing speed has built a brand off being himself, and that’s revealed an sincere ability to connect. The metrics prove it — as does his intent.

“I’ve been able to build my social media following by just posting things that are authentic to me,” he says. “Whether it’s a race video, a practice video, or something that I just think’s funny that I did during the day. Just staying true to myself and enjoying social media.”

He’s also aware of how having such a robust presence online has made making money off his talents all the more possible.

“Social media has been a very important part of my success in NIL,” shares Boling. “I’ve been able to have a lot of loyal followers and I’ve been able to create relationships with my followers by posting things that I feel like would be funny or just connect. Being able to use that to show people who may have an interest in brands that I use or ways that I optimize my performance has been very important within the space.”

Photo courtesy of Merrell

With the weight of endorsement deals and the guidance of an agency, Matthew Boling aims to stay on track with his brand even as it gets bigger by the day. For those looking to follow in his fast footsteps, he suggests they do the same.

“Just stay true to what you enjoy. Whether it’s track you’re posting, weightlifting tips, or ways to stay in shape, just [share] something you enjoy,” he says. “Stay true to that. If you want to go on TikTok and make funny videos, maybe make it a satire on what you do, just stay true to yourself and don’t let people bring you down.”

This school year, Matthew Boling is interested in setting more records on the track and doing more business off of it. He notes a desire to work with a partner in the recovery industry as well as align with a sports drink sponsor. Notably, both of those adjacent, complementary spaces are on-brand not just with his training regimen and race day success, but his overall vision of keeping the main thing the main thing.

And while he still burns up the track in Nike kicks, he’s well aware of the rarified air he’s entered in securing such a distinctive shoe endorsement deal as a student-athlete.

“I think it’s very unique,” said Boling. “You see a lot of professional athletes who are post-college with footwear deals, but being able to get in that space and partner with a brand that I think is able to help me a lot to get the best performance out of my sport is very unique. It’s a blessing for me.”

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