After signing Matt Corral to an NIL deal before the season, Panini America is campaigning for the Ole Miss QB to win the Heisman Trophy — complete with a huge billboard in Times Square.
Panini is throwing its support behind one of its own athletes, Ole Miss Rebels quarterback Matt Corral, for the 2021 Heisman Trophy.
Panini, the world’s largest sports and entertainment collectibles company, signed Corral to an exclusive autographed memorabilia deal earlier this year — an agreement now allowed in the NCAA’s name, image, and likeness era.
Now, the trading card giant is launching a campaign to land Corral college football’s most prestigious award, highlighted by an 18-story billboard in Times Square. The campaign also coincides with the launch of Corral’s autographed memorabilia line on Panini, which includes signed helmets and footballs.
“Matt was one of the first NIL athletes we signed exclusively last summer and he was one of the first for a reason: He’s one of the most exciting players in all of college football and his status as a Heisman finalist only confirms that,” said Brian Bayne, Panini America Vice President of Acquisitions in a press release. “We’ve had a blast watching and rooting for Matt this season, and we look forward to working with him for years to come.”
Corral lived up to the expectations this season, ranking third in the SEC in both yards (3,339) and completions (260) to go with his 31 total touchdowns. He will find out on Dec. 11 whether that’s enough to earn him the Heisman.
“I’m grateful to have such a great partnership with Panini America under NIL for my autographed memorabilia,” Corral said in a press release. “All season long Panini has supported me allowing me to focus on performing on the field. To have Panini unveil this enormous billboard in the heart of Times Square during Heisman Week is special and I look forward to the next phase of our partnership.”
Though Corral is a legitimate Heisman contender, he faces tough competition. FanDuel has him at +6000 to win, with favorite Bryce Young (-6000) and three others ahead of him.
The Rebels finished the regular season 10-2 under Lane Kiffin, good for second place in the SEC West. They’ll take on Baylor in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
But no matter how that contest turns out, Corral and Panini have shown us loud and clear a key, emerging component of the NIL era: brand partners supercharging campaign season for major awards.
And we’re only seeing the earliest stages of what will almost certainly be a wall-to-wall viral marketing practice adopted across the country before too long.