The college sports landscape has experienced a seismic shift in the last two years, thanks to the advent of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) endorsements, which were green lighted by the NCAA in July 2021. Leading the field of standouts in this ever-evolving arena:college football players, who partner with nearly 50% of the 900+ brands that inked deals with college athletes so far in 2023—a number that’s on pace to surpass the more than 1,000 brands that inked NIL deals last year.
With the college football season set to kick off this weekend, let’s take a look at three top players who are using their dazzling athletic talents to grow their personal brands off the field.
USC’s quarterback, Caleb Williams, tops the list with an impressive 16 NIL deals—major brands like Athletic Brewing Company, AT&T, Alo Yoga, and United Airlines among them. Notably, his Instagram following has surged a remarkable 81% year over year, as his exposure has grown in step with his sponsorship portfolio–signaling the impact of his off-field endeavors in boosting his social media profile.
Nipping at Williams’ heels is dynamic Colorado quarterback, Shedeur Sanders, with 13 partnerships, including household names like KFC, Oikos, and the BRADY brand. His digital footprint has expanded significantly as well, with a whopping 105% increase in Instagram followers year over year–cementing his position as the most followed college football athlete on the platform. He's also seen a laudable 73% growth on X (formerly Twitter), a sure sign that his star is rising across all social media.
Meanwhile, Elon defensive lineman Jon Seaton, is also an emerging force on the NIL front: his 12 endorsements include collaborations with household names like Dr. Pepper, Outback Steakhouse, and SoFi.
With the new school year just beginning, brands will no doubt be keeping an eye on other newcomers set to make waves on the NIL scene, including Blake Corum, Brock Bowers, and Marvin Harrison Jr., with 7 and 6 deals each, respectively.