OK, so college athletes are now allowed to earn money from endorsements and partnerships.
But the whole situation has helped me realize one thing: we’re all endorsing something, whether we know it or not.
When you think about it, athletes have long endorsed things on social media without getting paid a dime.
Looking at my own accounts, I see that I’ve been shilling for Big Green Egg smokers, various barbecue restaurants, the occasional spy novel, and Vanderbilt football, which, granted, needs all the free publicity it can get.
And that’s exactly what I’m giving: free publicity.
This reminds me of Jake Fromm, the former University of Georgia quarterback who showed up in Athens in 2017 as a freshman with the Twitter handle JakeFromStateFromm.
During the Bulldogs’ run to the national championship game (and a 1-1 record vs. Auburn), Fromm posted a sideline photo of himself talking on the phone to coaches with this caption: “When it’s the fourth quarter but your clients are calling about their insurance.”
It was worth a chuckle and drew nary a complaint from State Farm, which was getting free advertising.
A couple of years later, after Fromm declared for the NFL draft and was no longer an amateur, he did some radio spots for State Farm and went back to Twitter to plug Buffalo Wild Wings and Head and Shoulders.
He didn’t get rich doing it. The big bucks, of course, go to those already making the big bucks. Today, Fromm is third-string for the Buffalo Bills, and the only quarterbacks I see on State Farm’s TV ads are Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, both recent NFL MVPs. Rodgers has an annual salary of more than $33 million, and Mahomes is just starting a 10-year contract worth $450 million.
On the day the NCAA’s new Name, Image and Likeness guidelines came into effect, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix took to Twitter several minutes after midnight to endorse Milo’s Tea.
That prompted some Bama fans to swear off their favorite beverage, until later that day, when Tide defensive back Malachi Moore also announced an endorsement deal with Milo’s.
Moore’s favorite Bible verse, by the way, is Proverbs 16:3: “Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established,” while Nix’s is Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people.”
Moore’s Twitter page also sports a cool logo incorporating his initials, along with a shout-out to the World Games coming to Birmingham, a link to buy his autographed jersey for $175, and the pledge to donate 10% of the autograph proceeds to 5-year-old Ford Bertram’s fight against leukemia.
Not that anybody asked, but I don’t have a problem with this. These guys aren’t getting paid to play football, but like any student they’re able to hop on their phones and try to make a buck as a social media influencer. Yes, the name recognition helps, but so does having tech savvy, resourcefulness and an engaging personality. Oh, and working heartily.
Is all this setting them up for life or allowing them to buy Mama a house? No. For that to happen, they’ll need to stick to their day job.
You know, the one they’re not getting paid for.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.