Sports Creators (From The Lens of an Athlete vs. Influencer)

Most industry reports have the global sports market between $350-$500B in 2022 and hitting $700B by 2026.

However, I think it’s FAR larger than that….

Especially, with the emergence of NIL and the commercialization of youth sports (which I plan on covering soon).

But I’m here to talk about something else…

The benefits athletes & creators have had thanks to this booming market.

I think you’ll find this piece interesting, as I recorded podcast episodes with both of these gentlemen to coincide with it.

Let’s Dive In 👇

Athletes and Influencers

The worlds of sports and content creation have collided heavily as of late.

Which I covered in different ways over the last 6 months:

But I want to get more in the weeds today (with real-world success stories).

Sean Clifford

When NIL went live in July 2021, Penn State QB Sean Clifford didn’t just sign endorsement deals – he created an agency, Limitless NIL, to help other players maximize their name, image, and likeness.

Sean Clifford finished his career at Penn State as one of the most decorated quarterbacks in school history, while also building this business.

In early 2023, Limitless NIL was acquired in a multi-million dollar deal by TEAM Group Holdings.

sean clifford penn state

If you want to hear the backstory of how Sean created, scaled, and exited Limitless NIL then you’ll enjoy this podcast episode.

Adam Faris

Upon graduating from the University of Oregon, Adam Faris took to social media to express his interest in sports.

A couple of years later, he is sitting on an audience of over 2.5M followers.

But it’s not just that…

There is a BIG business being built behind the scenes with the company he co-founded, Dapper Life.

adam faris dapper life

If you want to hear the backstory of how Adam turned creating sports content into a full-time business, then you’ll enjoy this podcast episode.

The Bottom Line

These success stories probably wouldn’t have been possible even just a few years ago.

And there are some of the main reasons why:

  1. Web3 and Sports Betting

The rise of both sports betting and Web3 saw an influx of money head to the sports sponsorship world.

athletes and sports betting

This especially benefited creators, and collaterally helped athletes as the rates for brands looking to get involved in NIL went up.

Higher rates = Higher payouts for athletes + creators.

2. TikTok

While you could lump the popularity of all short-form videos into this, I would say that’s mostly because of TikTok.

Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts probably don’t exist (or aren’t as popular) if TikTok didn’t explode in popularity.

youtube vs instagram vs tiktok
From 2022 (Business of Apps)

And these algorithms allowed creators & athletes to grow followings at a much faster rate compared to social platforms in the past.

Adam Faris talks about this in the podcast when he mentions that “TikTok and short-form video content leveled the playing field”.

3. NIL

College athletes couldn’t make any endorsement money before July 2021 (and starting a business wasn’t even in the equation).

With extra cash flow, democratized knowledge, and more opportunities many athletes started to think beyond just brand deals.

Going Foward

Athletes and sports creators still have lots of room to grow — but the market is definitely starting to feel more saturated.

The tactics that worked 1 year ago, won’t work as well today.

sports creators on tiktok

Overall, the NIL market is correcting itself (and I think it’s going to look like how many of us thought it would at the start).

Monetization will be most prevalent for:

  • the top male football & basketball players
  • stereotypical “pretty” female college athletes (who are viewed more as influencers compared to athletes anyway).

However, the good thing is…

There is now at least an opportunity for anyone with an interesting story or unique niche. This applies to both athletes and sports creators.

For example…

My brother, Dan Petcash, has built a nice niche for himself in the “athlete health” domain (and having the D1 college athlete story certainly helps).

dan petcash tiktok

Last two things:

  1. Athletes/Creators: Focus on the niches and telling your unique story
  2. Brands: If you want to do NIL deals, find the athletes & creators in your niche (sometimes a smaller audience is better than a large one)

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