A look at the most creative ways that businesses and student-athletes have teamed up since the floodgates opened on July 1
We’re seven weeks into the NCAA’s name, image, and likeness Era, and we’ve already seen athletes secure every kind of bag — from tweeting about podcasts they’ve never listened to all the way to national TV ad campaigns.
But even among the almost 500,000 NCAA student-athletes, a few NIL deals have stood out above the others thanks to the sheer creativity behind them.
Less than two months into this great experiment, these are our favorites.
Ga’Quincy “Kool-Aid” McKinstry
Alabama Football // Kool-Aid
If it’s even possible, the most obvious NIL deal is also one of the most fun. McKinstry has long gone by the nickname “Kool-Aid,” so this particular partnership was basically written in the stars.
The Alabama DB has reportedly been given the power of “OH YEAH,” the specific meaning of which is perhaps unclear, but definitely something no other NIL athlete can boast.
Other than a few fun Twitter posts like the above, we still aren’t sure what McKinstry’s deal looks like, but if you look at Alabama’s official football roster, it’s clear that he and his program are fully committed to the bit:
That’s the kind of marketing activation that’s good to the very last drop.
Hanna & Haley Cavinder
Fresno State Basketball // Boost Mobile
You know you’ve made it in as a VIP in the public sphere when you’ve got your own billboard in Times Square.
Well, thanks to pay-as-you-go cell phone provider Boost Mobile, Fresno State Bulldogs basketball players Haley and Hanna Cavinder were able to skip the line with an assist from athlete endorsement and sponsorship marketplace Icon Source.
Trey Knox & Blue
Arkansas Football // PetSmart
Knox’s name might appear on the checks, but his husky, Blue, is a significant partner in this deal. The inseparable duo will appear together on social and in behind-the-scenes videos for PetSmart, and the brand plans celebrate their relationship and explore all the ways Knox cares for his pup.
As anyone who posts pictures of their dog on Instagram can attest, pet pics get likes; Knox doesn’t need to be the Razorbacks’ leading receiver to earn more than a few bucks.
“I have always been proud to be a student-athlete and an Arkansas football player, but I am just as proud to be a dog dad to Blue,” Knox said in an official statement.
Every Cougars Walk-on
BYU Football // Built Bar
You know those viral locker room videos where a coach surprises a walk-on with a scholarship?
Here’s Built Bar surprising 36 Brigham Young players with just that:
Built’s deal with BYU might be the most feel-good in the NIL era so far. Not only is the brand taking care of every walk-on’s tuition, but it will offer a brand ambassador position to every player on the team, allowing all 136 Cougars to earn up to $1,000.
The players who agree to this deal will wear Built branding on their helmets and participate in company events. The walk-ons will also do additional social media posts and other promotions, as USA Today notes.
Marshall Football // Live music
Not every NIL opportunity is as simple as an athlete partnering with a brand or business and calling it a day.
In addition to his prowess on the football field, where he has a shot at tying the school record for most starts, Marshall’s Will Ulmer is a talented musician who wasn’t able to earn money using his own name — until now. He had been going by “Lucky Bill” to avoid running afoul of NCAA regulations, but now says he is ready to book shows using his real name.
Ulmer has been talking to restaurants, bars, and music venues in the Huntington, West Virginia area about performing, per 247Sports.
Miami Football // Florida Panthers
Here’s a technically true headline: “University of Miami football player signs with Florida Panthers.”
King became the hockey team’s first “FLA Athlete” and the first NCAA student-athlete to sign an NIL deal with a major pro sports team. As part of the deal, King will appear at Panthers games and events, and will be featured on the team’s social media channels, the Panthers announced.
The deal also includes co-branded merchandise and a personalized concession item at home games. King is just the first FLA Athlete — the Panthers say they will announce more athletes from the state of Florida in the near future.
That’s not all the Canes QB’s got up his sleeve, however. Alongside Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton, he’s the cofounder of his own NIL ma
Degree’s “Breaking Limits” Campaign
Degree is doing more than just bringing on one or two student-athletes. The Unilever-owned antiperspirant brand has committed $5 million over the next five years to inspire people to break limits.
The first group of athletes that Degree has selected represent a diverse range of backgrounds regarding race, gender, and sport, and their stories will be unveiled on Instagram. These athletes will also have the chance to participate in events to help their local communities.
Degree will add more athletes to its roster as the year goes on.