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Odell Beckham Jr.

Athletes & Social Media (and Where It’s Going)

Did you know…

That soccer sensation Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly earns a staggering $2.3M for each sponsored Instagram post?

In 2020 alone, Ronaldo raked in an astonishing $41 million from Instagram, surpassing Lionel Messi by a whopping $16 million.

The impact of star athletes is truly remarkable, largely thanks to the surge of social media.

With a staggering 516 million followers, Ronaldo theoretically has the potential to reach 7% of the world population.

Cristiano Ronaldo social media pay

Zooming in a bit…

We’re now witnessing college athletes pulling in seven figures, courtesy of lucrative brand deals, with over 80% of these deals involving social media.

But what’s the broader picture of athletes and their social media presence?

Let’s Explore 👇

THE THREE CATEGORIES OF ATHLETES

As nearly all athletes can capitalize on their name, image, and likeness, the avenues for monetization vary significantly.

The era of athlete-centered media is upon us.

Athletes typically fall into three groups:

STRICTLY ATHLETES

For most athletes, excelling on the field remains their primary focus — a sentiment I wholeheartedly respect.

In fact, I refrained from active social media posting until after my playing days were over.

Unfortunately, many athletes, both collegiate and professional, are not actively engaged on social media.

This is regrettable for several reasons…

Many educational institutions and organizations invest substantial resources in capturing photos, videos, and content from games, practices, and events.

“Day in the life of an athlete” videos garner attention, with around 50,000 views and 1-2k followers across platforms like TikTok, IG, and YouTube Shorts.

A stronger social media presence translates to greater earning potential (and for most athletes, this window of opportunity is narrow).

Consequently, a new breed of athlete has emerged…

CONTENT CREATORS

The Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) era has revealed that some athletes possess hidden on-camera talents, coincidentally excelling in their respective sports.

Consider Jon Seaton, a backup offensive lineman at Elon University, who has amassed a six-figure income through his TikTok account, where he discusses life as a “big guy.”

Jon Seaton tiktok nil

However, there are drawbacks…

  • Athletes who delve into content creation often face skepticism from within their athletic communities (teammates, coaches, opponents, etc.).
  • Effective content creation demands far more time and effort than most realize, potentially leading to burnout and impacting on-field performance.

Consequently, we’re witnessing athletes delegating their social media responsibilities to professionals.

OUTSOURCERS

Once athletes attain a certain status, they can opt to outsource the management of their social media presence.

Indeed, there are companies dedicated solely to managing social media accounts for athletes and entertainers.

It’s quite remarkable…

Given the millions invested by companies in brand deals with athletes, this approach yields a positive return on investment for most parties involved.

But what are athletes truly earning?

ATHLETE EARNINGS

Becoming a professional athlete remains the ultimate goal (and probably always will be).

average pay by pro sport

But it’s often on an individual basis now.

For instance, the G-League, the NBA’s developmental league, offers a meager salary of $40,000 per year.

This explains why basketball players like Drew Timme, Oscar Tshiebwe, and Armando Bacot are opting to return to college.

And more data on the compensation of college football players is emerging via On3:

nil college football valuation 2023

While salaries, contracts, and NIL deals are on the rise…

There’s a reason why athletes are enjoying unprecedented earning potential.

Brand endorsements are highly effective…

According to a report by influencer marketing firm Captiv8, student-athletes outperform standard influencers by up to 12 times on social media platforms in terms of engagement rates.

So, what do athletes do with their newfound wealth?

SHIFTING TO OWNERSHIP

Athletes are amassing staggering fortunes, coupled with influence, power, and fame.

Many are leveraging these assets to venture into ownership roles…

Just recently, Naomi Osaka, Patrick Mahomes, and Nick Kyrgios announced their foray into Major League Pickleball ownership.

pickleball owners patrick mahomes, naomi osaka, nick kyrgios

And in another development, the National Cycling League (NCL) secured a $7.5M seed round, boasting an impressive lineup of athlete investors:

• Kevin Byard

• Bradley Beal

• Jalen Ramsey

• Derwin James

• Casey Hayward

• Emmanuel Acho

In the coming decades, athletes may dominate every facet of sports, from ownership to management and coaching.

The more wealth athletes accumulate, the more they can give back to the communities that nurtured their success.

Personally, I find it encouraging to see former athletes like Michael Jordan transition into ownership roles and individuals like Steve Nash excelling as coaches.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. Athlete endorsements yield significant returns.
  2. There’s a growing need for platforms to assist athletes in managing their content.
  3. Brands should explore innovative partnerships with athletes.
  4. Founders should consider offering equity to athletes without hesitation.
  5. NIL compensation has elevated the value of athletes across the board.
  6. Social media remains paramount for athletes seeking additional income.
  7. With greater wealth, athletes are becoming increasingly savvy and focused on long-term partnerships.
  8. Athletes will continue to shape the landscape of sports long after retiring.

INDUSTRY TRENDS & ANALYSIS

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