McGowan’s opportunity was organized through Athlete Direct, an NIL market launched in April as a pilot program by NBC Sports at Temple, as well as Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. The platform, which connects NBC Sports advertisers with athletes, was developed from conversations between network representatives and school presidents, athletic directors, compliance officers, coaches and parents after the NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved the new NIL regulations.
“Inclusiveness is an important part of what we want to do,” Damon Phillips, senior vice president of strategic initiatives at NBC Sports, said in a telephone interview. “A lot of the deals you’re seeing are in the top 1 percent. What we’re focusing on is the other 99 percent. We think there is an opportunity to bring business to those student-athletes. “
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The schools in the pilot program were not chosen at random. NBC Sports has a longstanding relationship with Notre Dame, having broadcast Fighting Irish football matches for 31 years. Temple made sense because NBC has a local affiliate, a regional sports network, and a Telemundo station in Philadelphia. Vanderbilt officials, Phillips said, shared what he called NBC Sports’ vision of approaching NIL “responsibly.” In addition to the notification of offers, athletes who register on the Athlete Direct platform have access to CNBC’s personal financial resources.
Athlete Direct’s first offering came last month: a tuning campaign for the weekly Sunday morning MLB broadcast on NBC-owned Peacock. To make the promotion happen, athletes who joined had to share an Instagram post and story prior to the June 19 game between the Phillies and Nationals, with specific information included for tracking purposes. Seeing the matchup, athletes from the Philadelphia and DC areas were targeted first, but the offer, which was limited to 75 entrants, was open to anyone.
McGowan, who hails from the Philadelphia suburb of Souderton, Pennsylvania, received an email and an Instagram DM about the promotion and decided it was a good choice.
“I was born and raised here, so the Phillies are a team I’ve always cheered on,” said McGowan. “I think if they were two random teams or I didn’t like watching sports, it would be a weird thing for me to post, so I wouldn’t have done that.”
NBC Sports has provided a couple of recommended captions and graphics for athletes to post. McGowan was one of the few attendees who used a personal photo of her – of herself as a child at a Reading Phillies game – so “it didn’t look so robotic.” She said she received $ 70 for her Instagram post, $ 20 for her story, and an additional $ 10 for providing a screenshot of the analytics of her posts.
McGowan, a senior on the rise, said NIL rules made it easier for her to grow her brand and personal training business.
“It was like walking on eggshells with what I was allowed to post before,” he said. “I was unable to post pictures of myself with the Temple equipment, as it could have rendered me unsuitable. It was hard to promote myself and grow what I was trying to do when I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things. … I know $ 100 doesn’t sound like a ton, but it’s definitely something. “
Other athletes who participated in the pilot campaign included Temple volleyball and track and field athlete Jaaliyah Evans, Vanderbilt football teammates Brayden Bapst and Justin Ball, Notre Dame tennis player Matt Che and the former Notre Dame basketball student and former Gonzaga College High Champion Prentiss Hubb. Then there was Notre Dame pitcher Gerry Peacock, who, in addition to sharing a name with the streaming service he was paid to promote while his team was in the College World Series, is a huge Phillies fan.
NBC Sports plans to add more schools this fall and offer athletes additional ways to monetize their social media accounts through partnerships with local and national brands, including by promoting discount codes for NBC-owned products like GolfPass and GolfNow.
“One of the goals here is to reach a younger audience and build a network of Gen Z student-athletes,” said Phillips. “We are learning from the pilot and our goal is to pour rocket fuel on this in the fall and be able to expand to student-athletes of all schools.”