Be smart on social media or lose NIL brand deals: It's time to make a choice

On3 imageby:Caroline Bynum08/02/21


  1. You are your own brand. Own it. Sell it.
  2. Companies are looking to pair with people who are low-risk on social media and align with their company’s values.
  3. Ditch the “cool” post to keep a clean social feed — it will pay off.
  4. It’s not too late to clean up your past posts. Go back and delete anything that could be interpreted poorly by corps.
  5. Buy into your own brand. Build your brand image in a way that is uniquely you.

It just got real. 

There has never been a more exciting time to be an NCAA athlete. Student-athletes are being transformed into entrepreneurs and brands. If this new world of NIL is important to you, it is time to take advantage of your online presence. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok are social media, yes, but they are advertising tools for your own brand. They are vehicles to your success. But just as social media can be your fast track to huge brand deals, they can just as quickly be your demise. 

For years, parents have warned against poor behavior on social media or the importance of your digital footprint, but the stakes just got higher. NIL is here, and if the brand deals, sponsorships, and influencer status is what intrigues you, you have to own who you are. 

So it is time to make a choice.

Yes, you want to sign with an incredible brand, but listen: you are the brand. We internalize commercial brands and personal brands the same way, even if you don’t realize it. You are selling yourself, your values, your skills. So keep it clean. Keep it consistent. Be calculated, yet authentic and comfortable. Dedicated, but balanced. Be intentional, be focused, but most importantly, be you. 

You could watch this Ted Talk about the importance of finding your WHY, or I could sum it up for you with this quote: “The goal isn’t to hire people who do what you do, but it is to hire people who believe what you believe.”

Brands and companies who are looking to join with you in sponsorships and deals aren’t looking for the person who does what their company does. They are looking for the person who personifies their brand. The person who believes in the brand, themselves, and their future together. 

Nike doesn’t sell by telling you they make great sneakers and sweat-wicking gear. They sell their shoes with a motivating message: Just Do It. They sell you by inspiring, upbeat, impressive ads. We don’t buy because of the “what.” We buy because of the “why.” We pay for things that we agree with, that we feel in tune to. 

Put yourself in the shoes of that tangible brand. Why would a company pay for your brand? Do your actions represent its “why”?   

So here’s the deal: To get the high-paying gigs and the brand recognition, you may have to do the un-cool thing. You may have to choose not to caption that lyric or post that Snapchat story or pose for that photo.

Be proud and confident with those posts- not chasing after the current trend. We don’t need to write this out, you know it: The cooler thing is signing on that line and seeing the check. The success that comes with these brands deals is worth more than any attention that comes with that Snapchat.

Brands aren’t looking to risk their credibility and reputation on a loose cannon, but it’s not too late to clean up your social profile and get back on track. 

Go back and stalk your own profile. Delete the obviously inappropriate things. If you’re iffy about something, it’s safe to assume someone will find it offensive. Clean it up. Be you, but be you in the safest way.

And then buy into your own brand. Build your brand image in a way that is uniquely you. Make your ‘why’ obvious to anyone who may stumble across your account. What gets you out of bed? What motivates you to do the extra workout or stay for more reps after practice? Ask yourself what social causes drive you or what interests you outside the sport. Proudly show your personality and humor and identity in the truest way possible. 

By presenting yourself authentically and being consistent in your online identity, you supply brands what they need to then make their choice: If they will invest in you. 

We’ve all heard countless stories of people who have lost scholarships or been fired from jobs due to social media. With NIL, the weight of your brand has leveled up.

So make all the tough decisions now. Clean up the social accounts – it’s not too late. If this new lucrative venture is important to you, then do everything in your power to make the choice easy for the brands. So then when it’s their time to decide to choose you, there is no hesitation and you both win.

Go back, clean it up, define your brand, and be the realest you that you can be. The deals will follow.