Wednesday September 27, 2023

Campus Ink Is Paying College Athletes Like Social Media Influencers

  • Athletes make between $8-$15 per item that doesn’t retail above $60.
  • The model allows Campus Ink to compete with some of the most high-profile companies in the space.
Alex Martin/IndyStar
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Campus Ink has developed an NIL merchandise program that pays players more like social media influencers than athletes.

The NIL stores, which sell customized T-shirts, crewnecks, and sweatshirts, compensate athletes between $8-$15 on items that are $60 or less, Campus Ink Director of Athlete Development and Partnerships Adam Cook told Front Office Sports. 

The model allows Campus Ink to compete with some of the most high-profile companies in the space.

Traditional group licensing deals pool a percentage of sales and distribute them to athletes, Cook said. Campus Ink, on the other hand, offers any funds above business costs to athletes on a per-item basis, like it would with social media influencers or other celebrities.

  • Fanatics and OneTeam Partners are paying less than $4 for a football jersey retailing at $140, Front Office Sports previously reported
  • The Brandr Group offers athletes about $10-$12 per item sold, roughly 10% of the jersey invoice price.
  • A Michigan group licensing deal brokered by Valiant offers more, however. It pays out about $20 per jersey, though items retail for a higher price than Campus Ink NIL products ($120-180).

The program has launched at three schools so far. The first, with Illinois men’s basketball, earned athletes more than $100,000, the company said. 

Following this success, Mark Cuban agreed to make an investment in Campus Ink to grow its offerings. It has more than a dozen more stores in the works, and has expanded to football, women’s basketball, and several Olympic sports.

Other companies “go about those rights through a group licensing agreement — which is great,” Cook said. “There’s 100% a place for that and it’s a wonderful avenue for athletes to get granted opportunities. But it’s not the only avenue.”

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