Personal Brand Playbook: How to sell yourself in the world of NIL deals

On3 imageby:Caroline Bynum08/03/21


  1. Keep your personal brand simple and authentic.
  2. Define your why.
  3. Keep your head in the game.
  4. Practice your elevator pitch.
  5. Partner with companies that align with your own values.

Brands are consistent, recognizable, and unique.

With NIL, you have no option but to be, buy-in, and own your own personal brand.

To create and build a personal brand, you have to ask yourself tough questions. What makes you different from your competitors? Is your personal brand consistent, recognizable, and unique?

Keep your brand simple. Nike is “Just Do It.” Apple is “Think Different.”

I have a singular sticker on my laptop. “Work Hard. Be Nice,” it says. When I worked on ESPN’s social content team, the company’s president, Jimmy Pitaro, spoke with us one day. He showed us an image of a poster hanging in his office. “Work Hard. Be Nice,” it read. Cheers, Jimmy. With just four words, I understood his personal brand. It aligned with mine. It’s simple, it’s easily defined, and it encompasses the way I face each day. Our brands aligned.

Career advisors constantly tell people to develop an “elevator pitch.” It seems cliché, but give it a shot. You are in the elevator with the CEO of a company that you want to partner with. You only have about 15 seconds to sum up your personal brand- this elevator ride is short.

Don’t start with your stats and your jersey number. Define who you are off the field. Ask yourself how, when, what, why, and who, and your personal brand will be obvious.


How do you plan to utilize your platform? Social media was previously just that: a media for socializing. Now, your profiles mean even more.

Make it clear to companies how you plan to use your profiles to positively promote yourself and them. How do you present yourself on social media? Is it raw and authentically you? Is your personal brand visible and easily defined?


The answer is easy: Now.

All of a sudden, you have been transformed into an entrepreneur and it is time to make the correct steps to best set yourself up for success. Time is ticking and in order to beat others to sponsorship deals, you need to beat them to the proper steps that will set you ahead of the pack.


So what drives you?
What are your strengths?
What separates you from the pack? What makes you unique?
What hobbies do you enjoy off the court or field?
What would your first coach say about you as an individual? What would you want your future coach to say?


We all have a reason. Why do you do what you do? Why do you stay after practice for a few more shots and why do you push yourself to do another rep in the gym?

Of course, a lot of the “why” surrounding NIL is going to be cashing the check. But the steps to signing on the line are all about you: Show why you are so motivated and companies will buy into your why.

The companies you should want to work with are the ones whose brand values align with your own personal motivations.

Define your why and your personal brand becomes much more visible. The framework of your personal brand is built from why you are the way you are and why you do what you do.


Lastly, the most important part of your selling your personal brand is defining who you are.

A large defining factor of your identity as a student-athlete is just that: your school and your sport, of course. Keep the main thing, the main thing. Keep your head in the game. If you lose sight of your athletic competition and training, companies will never buy-in. Keep your priorities straight.

At the same time, in order to truly cash in on brand deals, you must understand your personal brand as a whole. To sell yourself, you must own your brand that exists both on and off the court, field, or track.

So give ’em your elevator pitch. Just do it. Pause and say it out loud.

Elevator doors open. Are they handing you a contract without delay, or are you taking the long elevator ride back downstairs empty-handed?