Malachi Palmer is generally an unusual age of children who are constantly reading social feeds looking for the same counter to measure their value among their peers.
Even at 17, Palmer “way too much” spent countless hours of hardwood training sessions and traveled around the country playing against elite competition while top college coaches watched intently from the sidelines.
“I just love to play football,” said Palmer, Rising junior shooting guard at Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pa.). “I’ve been a laid back person, so I don’t need 10,000 likes. That’s not me. I let my game speak for me, it’s not fun for me.
The irony is that in the end his value, at least monetaryly, can be measured by the amount of pleasure that bothers him.
In a new world order of college athletics, where athletes collect seven-digit checks compiled by donors under endorsements and where collectives collect millions to snag highly productive players from well-known transfer portals, branding and marketing on social media appear like. a small price to pay for a potential tradeoff.
“It’s just a different world now,” Centennial (Corona, Calif.) Shooting guard Jared McCain said.
From wall flowers to social butterflies, elite prospects, parents and coaches emphasize that almost a year into the era of names, images and similarities (NIL), marketing is part of a game that everyone has adapted in real time.
“It’s not like it used to be when social media was considered a nuisance,” said Baylor association head coach Alvin Brooks III. “Now players need social media.”
To that end, for the first time in his 19 years as head coach at Baylor, Scott Drew ended the policy of taking players ’cell phones at night while playing road games.
“If you have a more mature group, they won’t bother,” Brooks said. “Well, now you have guys who have an obligation to deliver stuff and handle their business. For a lot of guys, that’s marketing a piece; it’s just not them, but for some guys, it’s second nature.
McCain definitely fell with the latter.
From looks to style to personality, McCain oozes marketability, evident in his massive followers on TikTok and Instagram of more than two million.
“If I wasn’t a basketball player, I would have been a YouTuber or just dancing on TikTok somewhere,” McCain said with a laugh. “I love social media. I’m just being myself.”
McCain became one of the first high school athletes to cash in after the NCAA voted to allow college athletes to profit from the NIL last July. More than half a dozen states, including California and New York, are expanding their policies to include high school athletes.
McCain’s fun, unhappy aura got a “profitable” deal with everyone from Kay Jewelers to Crocs.
“It’s still wild that people want to pay me to be me, but this is the nature of the sport now,” said McCain, a Rising senior who committed to Duke in March. “So, you have to promote your brand and increase your followers. One of the first things the company tells us when we talk is how impressed I am with all the followers I have. Even for guys who don’t want to dance or act, you can just post highlights or pictures. or the day-to-day type of life. It has to do something. ”
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Mikey Williams, a senior in San Ysidro (San Diego), is the most popular high school athlete in the country with over 3.4 million Instagram followers and friends like Drake and Da Baby, as well as NBA superstars like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
Last July, Williams signed a deal with Excel Sports Management, becoming the first high school basketball star to sign with a major sports agency to seek NIL endorsement.
Four months later, he signed a multi-year contract with Puma, making him the first high school basketball player in America to sign a sneaker deal with a global footwear company.
Bishop Stepinac (White Plains, NY) point guard Boogie Fland, a rising junior, signed a sponsorship agreement with Spreadshop, which allows him to create a brand on the organization’s platform.
The four -figure deal is six months long and requires Fland to send out once a week a brand promotion and mention the company.
To McCain’s point, Fland is almost excited to grow on social media as he will dominate the competition at the Nike EYBL this summer.
“I really like Tik Tok,” Fland said. “I have a great personality, but over the years I’ve had a hard time showing it; Tik Tok really lets me show my side. People don’t know my name because I can really dance. I’m really happy with him.”
Still, the majority of elite players across the country emphasize that hyper -focused marketing requires intentionality.
“Posting all the time just isn’t something I thought about all the time,” Windermere (Fla.) Forward Sean Stewart said. “It’s what I’m getting better at.”
Stewart’s interest was piqued this past season, watching his brother, Miles, advance on Howard, taking NIL money while matching up for Bison.
That got Stewart, who was loyal to the Duke in December, thinking about the possibilities, which led to several brainstorming sessions with his family.
Part of the reason Stewart chose the Blue Devils was “the best NIL presentation.”
“Duke has the biggest brand for sure,” Stewart said. “My family and I talk a lot about building my brand and my followers on social media. We hope that next year we will open NIL to high school players in Florida. I don’t think I’m going to have a difficult time with branding and sharing my personality and the like. I do. the focus will be on engagement; just showing what I do outside of basketball.Sending and all that should be a routine.
As one of the top players in the 2024 class, Liam McNeeley is on track for a restored NIL payday when the time comes.
At 6-foot-7, McNeeley is one of the most versatile players in the country; an elite playmaker with three-level scoring ability, consensus top 10 status in the class, a gold medal with USA Basketball and a state title.
He was also equipped with all the spoils given to the top prospects including a full court recruitment press by everyone from Kansas to Baylor to Duke, among many other schools.
However, McNeeley’s mother, Ashley Elsey, who owns a communications company, said she prefers organic rather than overdose when marketing.
“We try to keep the main ones, the main ones,” Elsey said. “Liam loves basketball; that’s what he loves to do. From a marketing perspective, we haven’t spent a lot of time on it, we’re just trying to make it happen organically. Not naive, I know that the reality of the game is evolving, but I still believe he loves it the game and the way he plays that will support him.
“He naturally does things socially and the people who make his films do it too. But, at the end of the day, we feel like keeping basketball as the most important thing is what will be the most enjoyable.
That must have been Baylor Scheierman’s thoughts when he entered the transfer portal last month.
As one of the top players on the portal to be great, Scheierman knew NIL had the potential to stall talks and told agents and parents about their desire to focus on the long game to sidestep that reality.
“It would be a blessing to make money from what I work for, of course,” says Scheierman, who is committed to Creighton. “But the biggest thing is it’s a fit for me. Yes, I could get a one -year deal with a great NIL, but if I play 10 years in the NBA, I feel it will be better for me.
Basically, the NIL million dollar offer is still the exception, not the rule.
That said, it’s the nature of young people who label themselves “next big” to determine their highest -level income potential. That mindset makes the report of the 2023 five-star football recruit an unknown $ 8 million NIL as an achievable, understandable goal. The increase in the adoption of marketing as an acceptable part of the journey and an organized plan for success will be centered around balance.
“You definitely have guys who are harassed in some way,” Brooks said. “This is just another thing that needs to be studied for balance. The most successful players will know and master time management. That’s the key.”
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