Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Bringing the Latest in News Straight to Your Screen


Viral Nation Enters NIL Market With Key Student Athlete And Alumni Signings

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 2, 2021

Viral Nation, an experienced influencer marketing and talent agency, is launching a new division today focused on cultivating athlete-influencers on the high school and collegiate levels. The new division, VN Sports, is launching with five current and previous college student athletes and three fresh brand deals.

Notable athlete influencers that have signed with VN Sports include the sons of two well-known former NBA players: Jayden Hardaway, son of former NBA player and current Memphis basketball head coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who currently plays for his father’s team and KJ Smith, a former UNC basketball player and son of NBA champion Kenny “The Jet” Smith.

Other signings include Belmont soccer player Keely Amelia Cartrett, Clemson football player Braden Galloway, Chicago State basketball player Anthony Hamilton Jr. and UNLV basketball player Jordan McCabe. In all, there are approximately 10 student athletes currently signed but more than 60 contracts out for signature.

VN Sports has been working behind the scenes not only to secure exclusive representation of these athlete-influencers but also to land a few deals to include as part of the launch. McCabe and Galloway each have deals with nutrition company Soylent, and Cartrett has inked a deal with Christian singles app Upward.

Viral Nation executive vice president Jonathan Chanti says it’s not just about the size of the following these student athletes have on social media but also the quality of their followers that is attracting brands.

“What’s special about Jordan McCabe, for example, is actually who is also following him. It’s a lot of celebrities and professional athletes.”

That’s not to say, however, that VN Sports is only going to focus on star student athletes that are household names.

“Some of the most socially-followed student athletes aren’t the stars of the team,” said Joe Gagliese, CEO and co-founder of Viral Nation. “They’re not the guys who people are wearing their jerseys. Sometimes they’re just the creators, or have really cool video content or some innate ability. So, once they’re school is over they come under the Viral Nation umbrella and we can help them monetize their future and grow outside of a sports perspective.”

Gagliese says Viral Nation started building the foundation for VN Sports last year after being approached by the father of a student athlete who was a lawyer and wanted to figure out how to get ahead of NIL.

“That’s when we really started to dive into this space. At first, honestly, we were worried schools wouldn’t be able to let go of that monetization. I thought it would be coming off of money that they would no longer be generating, so I was a little worried about how it would turn out if we invested in it. Then in January or February was when we built out the budget and said, ‘Let’s go to town. Let’s go hard, and let’s go wide and big.’”

Asked why other established influencer marketing agencies haven’t all jumped into NIL, Chanti said cost is a big deterrent for many.

“It’s not cheap. You have to have the right resources. You need legal counsel and platform technology. It does take a substantial amount of strategic investment and resources and know-how.”

Gagliese says he sees a future where partnering with student athletes will be the only effective way for advertisers to reach college students.

“I wouldn’t’ be surprised if two or three years from now if those student athletes, plus some digital paid media, is the only way to reach those kids inside of that school. The ad block across the United States is insane. They’re doing nothing but streaming platforms and they’re on social. So unless we can infiltrate that world of collegiate marketing, and marketing to young people who are becoming more and more powerful in terms of buying power, this is going to be one of the only ways they can do it.”

VN Sports has tapped Mike Lecce as vice president, who has a decade of experience in commercial management and representation of professional athletes, including David’ Big Papi’ Ortiz, Alex Bregman and Jose Bautista. Lecce will lead recruiting and brand partnerships for the division.

The company also pulled in a nutrition coach who has worked with professional athletes and celebrities including Drake, Steph Curry and Imari Johnson, Alonzo “Roxx” Thorne to assist with brand partnerships.

“He’s friends with all these big athletes, so there’s a trust factor there but also relatability,” Gagliese said of Thorne.

To scale recruiting, VN Sports will partner with A2A Campus Recruitment, founded by Michigan students Seth Sugar and Jordan Morant, who will support engaging and qualifying talent to join Viral Nation’s talent roster.

Comments


Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published.