LAKEWOOD, Colo. — As high school and college graduations commence, new rules have opened doors for student-athletes. Some are making big money off endorsements through "Name, Image, Likeness" (or NIL) deals. In this week's "In Good Company," I'm featuring the Colorado business Icon Source that's become the leading match-maker of those opportunities.
Chase Garrett used to work for Red Bull and saw the potential of athlete marketing in action sports.
"I've been involved in sports marketing at every level throughout my life and career," Garrett said. "I was an athlete and then a sports agent."
But the game changed in July 2021 with the NCAA allowing athletes a revenue stream through its NIL rule. College athletes can now earn money from endorsements using their personal brand and social media following.
"We've done deals with Lockheed Martin and Microsoft, to local mom and pops, car dealerships, restaurants," Garrett said. "You have millions of businesses all across the country looking for athletes of all shapes and sizes."
Garrett launched Icon Source to foster those connections.
"The brands sign in to our platform, and they can search an athlete based off location, sport, gender, social media following," Garrett said. "There are components of a dating app, where you're looking for that perfect match. There are also components of like Zillow where you can compare market price for certain engagements."
He says female athletes, like LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne, or University of Miami basketball twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder, are some of the nation's highest earners.
"From social media campaigns to appearances to commercial shoots to one-off speaking engagements," Garrett said. The deals run the gamut, and some are six-figure contracts.
Garrett has advice for young athletes looking to build their brand.
"Really do a deep dive on what makes you an individual," he said. "What do you stand for? Where are you from? And that's what brands are really looking for. They're looking for an athlete that may be a professional baseball player, but is also into gaming, or hunting, or fashion, or technology. Something that really makes them unique."
Garret said he thinks the four-billion dollar market is just getting started.
According to OutKick, NBA star Lebron James' son Bronny James has the highest valuation of NIL deals at $7.5-million. Other top value college athletes include Broncos' great Peyton Manning's nephew Arch Manning and the University of Colorado's Shaduer Sanders, son of head football coach Deion Sanders.