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NIL officially became a red-hot marketing topic on July 1, 2021, when the NCAA enacted a rule to allow college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses (NIL). Now college athlete endorsements are on the rise, with all sorts of splashy six- and seven-figure deals making headlines.

For brands that are curious about NIL marketing, today’s buzzy sponsorships might give the impression that partnering with a student-athlete is about as affordable as hiring Shaquille O’Neal. The reality is that NIL marketing offers the ability for brands to partner with athletes at every level of every sport. While the biggest deals tend to get the most attention, there are incredibly valuable NIL opportunities among the nearly half a million NCAA student-athletes who compete in 24 different sports each year.