Justin Fields and Kyle Pitts are part of the first rookie class to be paid under the NFL’s new league-wide paycheck schedule, which disperses salaries over 36 weeks instead of 17.
The guiding rationale here was to allow players to better budget their salaries, although Fields and Pitts told Front Office Sports they have a plan for their paychecks that renders the point moot.
“My plan right now is to not really touch any of my contract money and just pretty much live off of the marketing money,” Fields said.
“Definitely living off our endorsement money,” Pitts agreed. “Putting our stuff away, so there’s that generational wealth.”
Pitts, the fourth-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, signed a four-year, fully-guaranteed $32.9 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons, the most guaranteed money among all active tight ends. Fields, the 11th-overall pick, signed a fully guaranteed four-year, $18.9 million contract with the Chicago Bears that included a $11.1 million signing bonus.
Both athletes have an assortment of endorsements that can support their financial decisions. Pitts has endorsements with Jordan Brand, Raising Canes, and Panini America, while Fields has deals with Bose, Chipotle, and Wonderful Pistachios.
Pitts and Fields are also both brand ambassadors for Nutrabolt’s C4 Energy, the fastest-growing energy drink in the U.S. through the first five months of 2021. Each was previously familiar with the C4 brand, which includes its popular pre-workout products.
“I actually used to drink some in high school, but to now be one of the brand ambassadors and seeing how successful the business is starting to become, it’s pretty exciting to see,” Pitts told FOS.
Similarly, Fields has been drinking C4 since college and says his partnership with the brand is a “family thing.”
Nutrabolt Chief Marketing and Digital Officer Rajaa Grar said “authenticity” was key when discussions began with Bryan Burney of Athletes First, business manager for both Pitts and Fields.
“We always need to do our research on companies,” Burney told FOS. “How old a company is, where they stand amongst their competitors, the tone of their creative and content.”
Nutrabolt has been working to branch out from a flagship C4 pre-workout supplement line that has a 40% market share in that category.
“Thanks to our legacy that’s been built on the pre-workout side with the brand C4 for the past 10 years, most of these athletes have already taken the C4 brand in some form, whether it’s an energy drink or a pre-workout,” Grar told FOS.
Grar said that social media and genuine engagement are a key aspect of C4 Energy’s marketing strategy. Fields already has 1.17 million followers between his Twitter and Instagram accounts. Atlanta-bound Pitts has about 213,900 followers across the same platforms.
Pitts (Florida) and Fields (Georgia and Ohio State) could have utilized their status to earn money if the NCAA had allowed them to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL), something that college athletes were finally allowed to do starting this summer.
“Social media is a gift and curse, but in this day and age it is currency whether we like it or not,” Burney said. “A player’s following and authentic content is a huge factor in partnerships, and the revenue they will bring on.”
Fields cautioned current college athletes to seriously consider their branding deals.
“They’re hungry to get to the money, but I think they can definitely get taken advantage of with different brands. It’s important for them to know their worth,” Fields said.
Pitts added: “Once you handle everything on the field and in the classroom, everything else will follow behind. Everybody wants to get paid for their image and likeness, but if you’re not on the field playing, those brands aren’t going to start.”
C4 hasn’t signed any college athletes yet, although Grar told FOS the brand has been flooded with interest.
“We are looking at it very, very carefully,” she said. “There are a lot of athletes out there that love our products, enjoy them, and we want to make sure that we showcase them and showcase their stories.”