Brands are showing an increasing interest in partnering with athletes at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for name, image, and likeness deals.
The latest: sports equipment company Spikeball, which has inked partnerships with eight men’s and women’s sports athletes from North Carolina A&T, Florida A&M, Norfolk State, and Elizabeth City State University. The partnerships were facilitated through a marketplace called Athlytic.
In exchange for social media endorsements, athletes are receiving “capital, spikeball gear, kits, and other goodies.”
Spikeball is one of several companies investing in HBCU athletes.
- Adidas, for example, has launched a brand ambassador program open to every Division I athlete at an Adidas school. The company said that HBCU athletes were at the top of its priority list.
- College Hunks Hauling Junk offered deals to all of Howard’s men’s basketball players.
- Urban Edge Network and Athlyt reportedly offered partnerships to every athlete at Grambling State.
Some HBCU athletes have racked up impressive endorsement resumes in the first year of the NIL era. Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders, son of Deion Sanders, has an impressive NIL resume including Gatorade and Tom Brady’s apparel brand. And more than 70 brands have partnered with Norfolk State football and track athlete Rayquan Smith — including Spikeball.
“If Corporate America is perceptive enough … they will realize that African Americans spend money, too,” former Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Commissioner Dennis Thomas told Front Office Sports in October. “And they’ll get a good return on investment.”
While there’s more work to do, it looks like Corporate America is finally waking up to this reality.