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Marketing Yourself As A Student Athlete

Posted by Sam Zikos on October 28, 2021 at 11:13 AM

The Time Has Come!

It wasn't until recently that the NCAA approved a policy that would allow student athletes to monetize off their name, image, and likeness.  Now, professional athletes have served as brand partners for a while. but for student athletes, this is an entirely new space. For a college kid, who is balancing school, sports, and a social life, building a personal brand can be a bit difficult and overwhelming—especially if it's not done right.

So, we sat down with Alex Sinatra to get the lowdown on this new policy, and find out what student athletes need to know.  Plus, she has a ton of experience in sports and law. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares how to market yourself as a student athlete, from the expertise of Alex Sinatra, who is the CEO of Your Potential For Everything. 


EP 275 Marketing Yourself As A Student Athlete


A Little More About Alex

Alex Sinatra is the CEO and Founder of Your Potential For Everything, a strategic consulting business that helps women and women-owned businesses in the sports and esports industry grow. In addition to being an entrepreneur, she is also an attorney and a journalist. She has also served as an in-house counsel for famous sports families, startups, a multinational company, and recently, a professional sports team. Alex is also the author and podcast host of “The Your Potential For Everything” book and show.

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: What I'd love to do is start our listeners off on knowing how you got on your journey to here today. Not just talking to me, obviously, but in your career, how did you start off? You have had such a varied history where you have leveraged one thing into a passion to another other passion and managed to make it all come back together again.

Answer: Yes. I always tell people that I'm a Renaissance person or a multipotentialite, an expert generalist, whatever you want to call it. I have a lot of different passions and I pursue them all. I do leverage one passion into another, and I learn so much about law and marketing and business and entrepreneurship and journalism because I am willing to fail and then quickly realign myself to learn something new.

For me, I knew that I wanted to stay in sport. I knew that I was interested in entrepreneurship, because ever since I was little, I was trying to sell things in my tiny little town in Missouri. I was selling things on a road that got one car an hour, but I was hardcore trying to sell those things and market myself. And then I decided I want to be able to help athletes, so I can be a sports attorney. Maybe I could be an agent. I know that you had Britney on the show recently and she did become an agent.

I decided after interning with agents that I just didn't want to do that. It wasn't part of my journey, but I still wanted to be a sports attorney. I wanted to be a marketer. I'm a journalist for USA Today. For me, every opportunity that presents itself that I do believe is going to make me a better advocate for my clients, whether those are legal clients or business consulting clients, I seize that opportunity.

It really just adds another layer to myself and my capability so that I have a very wide net that I can cast to help people. That's a little bit about me. I love being a multipotentialite. I so much fun to be able to do bunch of different things in my life.


Question: You got your start in sports, in playing sports. What was that background? What were you doing as an athlete?

Answer: Yeah, so I was a gymnast for a large majority of my life. At a very young age though, I got a pretty big injury. In gymnastics, you start very young. I was around 11 or 12 when I broke my back, fractured my spine the first time. And so that kind of derailed any big dreams of going to the Olympics or being on the US national team. But I still did a ton of other sports when I was in high school. I did track and field, and I did long distance running and volleyball and basketball.

I was extremely athletic and a really hard worker. For me, buddy in my family was in sport in some form or fashion, whether that was professional athletics or Division I athletics, D2, whatever it may be, and I always had professional athletes coming in and out of my house when I was young, because we housed international basketball players in my house. I was just very much in that culture and my mentality is very athlete focused.

I just have this way of being able to deal and speak with athletes in their language because I was one and I've always been around them and it's a completely different language than other human beings. They're humans, but the way that they speak and interact with each other is very different. And I fit really well into that because I have very thick skin, but I can also dish as well as I can take.


Question: I was speaking with a former professional football player the other night, whose son is in a major college division. He's going all the way following his father's footsteps, right? I made a comment that I would refer him over to talk with our influencer division. He's like, "No, no, no, no. My son is not an influencer." And he's like, "You have to understand, a student athlete is different than being an influencer." And when I went in to dive in and try to correct a little bit of this, because anyone is an influencer nowadays, but I think the mindset is that to be an influencer, you have to have millions of followers on social media, and that you're just like creating content about brands and you're flying away around the country. But these student athletes are actually home grown, localized influencers who have a tremendous ability to impact a localized community at their schools, right?

Answer: Depending on who they are and what they're trying to be, an influencer might be a fantastic title for them. Knowing athletes, I can understand why the father maybe got a little maybe not offended, but his feathers got bristled a little because influencers don't always have a positive connotation associated with them, right? If you're a student athlete and you're told, "Well, you can be an influencer," they almost see it as no, I'm more than that.

For them, I can see that influencer in certain situations, that might be the perfect name for them, but perhaps using something different that has the exact same meaning, but a different word might help them to see that that can be a positive association...but building a personal brand, that's a phrase that I know athletes like to hear. Getting a sponsorship, being a sponsored athlete, that's something that a lot of athletes enjoy being able to talk about once they get that. Like, "Oh, I'm sponsored. I'm sponsored by Nike. I'm sponsored by New Balance," whomever it may be so.


Question: What are some of the mistakes that you see students make time and time again that they really need to be wary of?

Answer: Sometimes they don't recognize what deals they're getting into and what the long-term consequences are. They think that they're signing a deal that's three months. And sure, the term of the contract, their responsibility for posting is three months, but there might be something within that contract that says, number one, you can't work with another brand for X amount of months after the term ends, which could be a non-compete of some sort. Some states allow it. Some states don't allow it. And they might say something like you have to post on your social platforms, but it doesn't say how many posts, what platforms, do you have to create new platforms, what do those posts entail, does the athlete provide the content, does the brand provide the content? There are so many situations where these athletes think, "Oh my gosh, I'm going to get X amount of dollars per month and all I have to do is post on social? That is amazing."

It could be amazing, or it could be a headache that stays with you for a year and a half of your eligibility in NCAA. It could be positive. It could be negative. For me, I want them to understand what are you getting into and what is the long-term consequence of that? And what is your responsibility? What's the brand's responsibility? How are you going to get paid? A lot of times they'll say, "Oh, well, we'll pay you." Well, is that going to be cash? Direct deposit? Is it net 90 days? Is it within 15 days? Do you have to invoice the brand? But there are so many situations. I was talking with an eSports influencer she calls herself a caster, right, or a host. I was going over these things. Well, what are they going to pay you? What is your responsibility? When does this end? When does that end, right? And even pro athletes sometimes, I said, "Well, are you going to get a bonus for if your post hits this many likes or if it hits this many views? Are you going to get a bonus?" And they ask me"What do you mean?" Well, this is what I mean, and you're trying to explain this to them in a way that no one's taken the time to explain. 


Question: What are some last parting words of advice for those who want to build their brand, who have a sports backbone, who are in college, out of college, what would your parting words be?

Answer: My parting words would be figure out who your ideal client customer is. It might not be the person that comes to your games and supports you. It might not be the people that are liking your photos on Instagram. You might have a different business that you could build. Going back to the athlete who has a science background, maybe it's a science subscription box, and that's what you want to create. Don't just think of yourself as an athlete. You're more than just an athlete. Think about what your passions are. Ask other people what you're good at besides sport and see if there's some way you can build a business toward that particular passion.


Check Out The Podcast!

Alec has so much great information from her experience working with athletes. Check out the podcast below to learn more about how student athletes can build a personal brand!

Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year: 

Every week we release a new podcast featuring guest's with so much knowledge about marketing, you don't want to miss one!  How can you make sure you don't miss an episode? Click below to subscribe!

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Topics: Podcast Interviews, Podcast, HB Podcast