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UNC’s Deja Kelly Signs Equity NIL Deal with Plant-Based Barcode

Ahead of the ACC tournament, North Carolina guard Deja Kelly has inked an equity NIL deal with plant-based beverage company Barcode.

University of North Carolina guard Deja Kelly has inked her first long-term equity NIL deal with Barcode, a plant-based hydration company founded by NBA coach and professional trainer Mubarak Malik. Kelly will come on board as an investor and brand ambassador while serving as the company’s first ever female NIL deal shareholder. 

As part of the deal, Kelly will aid in bringing Barcode’s brand awareness and retail footprint to the Dallas-Fort Worth area by making appearances at local Central Market locations.

“Being a college athlete and aspiring businesswoman, generational wealth and wellness are both incredibly important to me,” she said in a statement to Boardroom. “Having equity in a fast-growing startup that also offers the community a healthy alternative is a dream partnership for me. I could not be more excited to join Barcode in its mission to promote healthy hydration, while also learning the fundamentals on how to grow and scale a company.” 

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Kelly is originally from San Antonio, Texas and is a graduate of Duncanville High School. She’s currently leading the Tar Heels in scoring and will attempt to lead her team to its first ACC title in over 10 years. 

Barcode will also be the official hydration partner for Kelly’s Women’s Empowerment and Basketball Camps launching in San Antonio and Dallas in Summer 2022. The camps are designed for young women in middle and high school to learn the fundamentals of basketball training as well as leadership and essential life skills. 

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications

“Our partnership with Deja Kelly is a no-brainer,” Malik said in a release. “Her athletic excellence and unwavering commitment to healthy living align perfectly with our missions and value at Barcode.”

The NIL deal with Barcode isn’t Kelly’s first. She has also signed deals with Postmates, Outback Steakhouse, and Dunkin’. Through the Dunkin’ partnership, the company donated $5,000 to the Velle Cares Foundation in association with the “Single Mothers Salute” annual event.

“Innovation and empowerment are core to who I am as a woman and an athlete,” she said. “It’s incredible to be an ambassador to a company that shares those values, and to own a piece of such a rapidly growing business.”

Kelly and the Tar Heels are seeded fourth in the ACC Tournament and will play in the quarterfinals Friday morning, March 4, at 11 a.m. ET.

About The Author
Randall Williams
Randall Williams
Randall Williams is a Staff Writer covering sports business and music for Boardroom. Before joining the team, he previously worked for Sportico, Andscape and Bloomberg. His byline has also been syndicated in the Boston Globe and Time Magazine. Williams' notable profile features he has written include NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent, Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad, BMX biker Nigel Sylvester and both Shedeur and Shilo Sanders. Randall, a graduate of "The Real HU" - Hampton University - is most proud of scooping Howard University joining Jordan Brand nearly three months before the official announcement.