How To Create A Personal Brand For NIL Opportunities and College Recruiting

High school and college athletes can now profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) which means creating a personal brand holds much more weight now than it ever has before.

Sure you can think about it as larger the personal brand = larger the NIL deals, but another way to approach this is from a personal and professional growth standpoint. Athletes now have the opportunity to think more about who they, who they want to be surrounded by, and what they want to accomplish much earlier now. Instead of feeling like it’s a big responsibility, which to be fair, it is, we’re here to help young athletes at least get started.

So, how do you create a personal brand?

In an interview with Michael Harper, Jr., a performance tennis coach, mental performance specialist and founder of Harper, Sports Management & Consulting, he shared with TeamSnap what college coaches are looking for in recruits and ways athletes can best showcase who they are. 

“The first thing they [college coaches] are going to do is Google you and look at what’s out there about you. There’s so much in the space right now I think they want to see the intangibles. Truthfully, no one who knows any better is going to buy it – Nobody is going to buy that’s a perfect road.”

What Harper means is there is no shame in showing your journey as part of your personal brand, because that’s what is unique to you. A personal brand should be personal and shouldn’t just be a highlight reel.

To get started building your personal brand the first step is recognizing what you want to achieve.

A clear idea of what you want out of your personal brand. Being secure in your own two feet will help you navigate NIL deals and opportunities along the way. If you feel solid in who you are and what you deserve, you’ll have clearer insight as to what deals may be right for you and what ones may be wrong. When you are building out your personal brand think about the things that make you successful both in your sport and out of the game. Is it your personality? Your grit? Your humanity? Lean into those things and start capturing moments that set you apart from others.

Build a framework for your personal story. This may sound like a lot of work, but it is essentially your personal story. If you build out a framework you can constantly come back to it when brands are expressing interests as well as college coaches. First things first with your framework you will need to establish your purpose: What’s my purpose of having a personal brand? Then you will need to fill in the framework with your values, performance/competition, and then outside of competition skills like how you communicate, lead, and showcase yourself.

[How to Help Youth Become Their Best: A 6-Step Framework]

Once you’ve established who you are and built out your framework, you are going to want to showcase yourself. Enter into the scene: Social media. You don’t want to make it difficult for coaches and brands to find you. While intimidating to think about it, anything up on the internet is searchable and when it comes to NIL deals and college recruiting the more out there the better, if done correctly.

Post frequently and make it easy for people to see your story. Exposure is everything nowadays, so make it an experience for coaches and brands when they visit your Instagram page, YouTube page, or whatever social media channels you choose to utilize. If you’re using Instagram, you want to make sure your content is high-quality and showcases both your highs, but also your journey. Make a highlight reel at the top of your page to show some of the big moments and the rest of the posts that paint your entire athletic and personal journey.

You don’t just have to showcase yourself only playing your sport. This can be confusing especially when you are looking to get an NIL deal or college athletic scholarship. One of the biggest attractions to brands are athletes who have a strong presence outside of their sport. If you are someone who also loves to engage in surfing or book clubs, it’s okay to weave in moments of that too in your social media.

Another important step is to make a plan. Just as you would build out a plan for your sport, you will want to build out a strategy and plan for your personal brand. Your plan can be set using these guided questions: When should I post content?Where should I post content? What kind of content should I post? How often should I interact with brands?  How often should I reach out to brands/colleges? Where should I search for opportunities? How can I best promote my brand?

Reflection is important too. Once you’ve started publishing and showcasing who you are, it’s essential to reflect and figure out what is working and what isn’t. Maybe you’ve seen a shift in your personal brand, maybe you’ve been attracting brands or schools that don’t really feel right. Whatever the case is, you have to go back to the drawing board from time-t0-time to make sure your values and who you are are attracting the right kind of people and companies. It’s okay if this takes time, it’s all a journey.

Moral of the story, with both NIL deals and college recruitment the key is to know your own worth as an athlete and person. You may hear this a lot, but it truly is the foundation for everything. Do the work and spend time figuring out what you like and don’t like, what highs and lows you feel comfortable unpacking and sharing, and don’t rush any of this. Building your personal brand is as much for you as it is for anyone else.

Still interested in reading more about NIL, listen to CEO of TeamSnap, Peter Frintzillas, on Game Playchat about NIL in college football, the new opportunities NIL could bring, the pressure on college athletes, how NIL impacts youth athletes, how parents should handle their kids making money from sports and more.

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