It’s no secret that NIL has changed the complexion of college sports. Student-athletes have never had more power and freedom than they do now.
As I enter my fifth and final volleyball season this upcoming fall at SMU, I feel incredibly fortunate to have benefited from this newfound control student-athletes have through NIL.
In year one of NIL alone, I was able to secure more than 40 brand partnerships.
I actually wrote a book about my experiences with NIL and how I’ve managed to land those partnerships, hoping to help and inspire other student-athletes on how to grow their brand and succeed in the NIL space.
This past fall, I was presented with the tremendous opportunity to be a part of Meta’s NIL Empower 2.0 NIL program — I was one of 30 female student-athletes across the nation.
The program provides us with a multitude of resources to help us amplify our content creation efforts, specifically on Facebook and Instagram.
In addition to boosting my brand and helping me prepare for life after college, one of the advantages of being a part of Meta’s NIL program was the chance to attend the 2023 NIL Summit in Atlanta just a few weeks ago in early June.
Meta was nominated for an award at the summit, so they invited the 30 of us to Atlanta to meet each other face-to-face for the first time and continue to grow our brand and network.
I also had the privilege of being on a panel to speak on behalf of the Empower 2.0 program about content creation and storytelling.
If there’s anything I’ve learned within the past few years, it’s that we have the capacity as student-athletes to write our own stories. Every single one of us is going to have to retire from our respective sports one day, but now more than ever, we have the ability to build our brand and set ourselves up for success once we graduate.
As I headed to Atlanta, I couldn’t wait to share my perspective, learn from industry experts, and hear from hundreds of other athletes about their experiences with NIL.
The event kicked off with a red-carpet awards show, followed by an amazing networking reception and happy hour.
The second day then was jam-packed with various panels.
Each panel was about a specific topic, such as brand-building or financial literacy, and featured industry professionals, administrators, former and current pro athletes, and even some student-athletes.
It was absolutely fascinating and incredibly insightful.
My favorite panel was Meta’s last panel, which involved content creators sharing tips and tricks about how to make the most of your posts on social media.
This panel left a significant impact on me because I’m not quite sure yet what life is going to look like for me after I graduate, but I do know that I want to continue building and growing my personal brand — something that was constantly addressed in that particular panel.
And let’s be honest, there’s no better way to learn than to hear from people that do that very job for a living as content creators, so I was incredibly thankful for everything they shared.
One of the many tips that stuck with me was that the more you post and create engagement with your Instagram Stories, the more you’ll be featured on the Explore page.
That was useful to hear because I typically only use my Stories to repost, so making them more personable and engaging will allow me to reach a broader audience.
Listening to all these tips and tricks from so many professionals and their perspectives was invaluable to me as a student-athlete.
While this wasn’t my first time attending the NIL Summit — I attended the inaugural one last year as well — it felt like an entirely new experience.
This year, I got to present an award and was also part of the “Content Capture, Creation & Storytelling” panel hosted by Meta alongside three other phenomenal female student-athletes — Anna Camden, Laney Higgins, and Cami Wilson.
With Meta asking me to join the panel, I was more of a contributor as opposed to ‘just’ a spectator like I was last year.
There were so many people that came up to me asking for advice about NIL, and it was gratifying to be able to share my knowledge and experience to help them build their brand and achieve success.
This year’s summit also gave me some awareness about what other student-athletes know about NIL. I was asked some of the same questions by numerous student-athletes, so that was an indicator that I need to center some content around NIL going forward to help fill some of those gaps.
I graduate in December, so with this likely being my last NIL Summit, it was a nice bookend to one of the final chapters in my career. I was able to make an impact and give advice to student-athletes across the country, which is something I’ll always look back on as one of the proudest moments in my career.
Beyond everything I learned and was able to share, one of my favorite things about the summit was just building camaraderie with my fellow Empower 2.0 members.
I’ve known these girls since last fall, and we’ve texted and called each other, but I think there’s something to be said about coming together in person to put a face to the name.
Without a doubt, building those personal relationships was one of the most impactful things about the summit.
After having the opportunity to attend the NIL Summit two years in a row, I couldn’t recommend the summit enough to student-athletes in the coming years.
I’m leaving it so inspired every single time.
But after the event, the work starts.
The NIL Summit provides you with so many resources, relationships, and knowledge, but in order to really capitalize on all of it, you have to put in the work.
As student-athletes, we drive the bus in building our brand and creating content that will benefit us throughout our college careers and beyond.
The NIL Summit is the perfect starting point for student-athletes looking to bolster their NIL status by asking questions, seeing what businesses and brands are looking for, and establishing connections and relationships.
It’s difficult for us student-athletes to have a job or internships with our hectic schedules.
But with NIL, we can generate some income and simultaneously gain valuable work experience and life skills.
With the platform we have now, as long as we’re willing to put in the work, our future is in the palm of our hands.
We control the narrative.