Many athletes sliding into the NIL era have been building their personal brand on social media for years. Posting on social media is something Texas Softball star Lauren Burke has enjoyed doing throughout her time as a student-athletes, and she has built an audience of 600,000+ followers between Instagram and Tik Tok. We caught up with Burke to learn about how she’s navigating the NIL era.
Lauren Burke is all about keeping it real on social media. She has traditionally used her platforms to connect with her friends and family.
“I never post on social media with the intent to gain followers or gain a platform to consider myself as a quote, unquote ‘influencer,’” she said. “That isn’t my intent with posting. I post because I enjoy it. I like to share what I’m doing with family and friends, and it kind of just gained a following.”
Burke’s first venture into TikTok is a great example of that authentic approach. She and a teammate, Mary Iakopo were in the baseball facility messing around with the different sounds and recording themselves.
Attempt 10000♬ original sound – HannahAndSky
“It took us, like, 100 takes—not exaggerating—and ended up getting over 1,000,000 views on my very first TikTok,” she said. “That set the scene. I was like, ‘Whoa, this is a thing. This is really cool to have this great reach, and also build the sport of softball. That is something that empowers me a lot: To grow the sport and give back to the game. That just encourages me to continue to share my life online.”
Growing the Game
“I have so much passion for the game, so I love seeing other people share that same experience. It’s such an amazing sport that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Especially as a female, seeing more people care about the game, it makes me so excited and hopeful for the future that maybe younger girls will have more of an opportunity to play the game that they love as a career.”
Despite her positive experience on social media and having an opportunity to grow the sport she loves, Burke is candid about the realities of what it can be like to read the comments.
“As far as fan response goes, it’s hard to read the comments sometimes because there are a lot of people that say that softball is not a sport or that baseball is so much harder,” she said. “It can get frustrating, but I think my response to that is using humor as a coping mechanism. So, I’ll make a video back and make little comparisons or talk about it openly. But it has been difficult and there have been videos where I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m done reading the comments on this one.’”
On July 1, 2021, many athletes began navigating new territory of college athletics in the NIL era. Burke noted that she was thankful she wasn’t in classes and wasn’t in season, and had time to educate herself on what all the policy changes meant. She was supported by her institution, who provided quality education and resources.
“Texas does an amazing job of not only giving us resources but also educating us about how to go about it in the best ways,” she explained. She’s all in supporting her fellow student-athletes. “It’s been so cool to see everyone taking advantage of [NIL]. Whenever I see another student-athlete post an ad, I always try to engage with it and boost those numbers for them [to help with] their future opportunities.”
While NIL may have not leveled the playing field from a sports media coverage perspective, but Burke believes it’s helped level the playing field for individual athletes. Every student-athlete has an opportunity to share their values and monetize their personal brand.
“There’s a space for every single student-athlete to build their brand, to build a following for themselves, and also to incorporate your values in everything you do,” she said. “It’s just about getting out of your comfort zone. Posting even though you feel, maybe, a little bit of judgment—no one’s judging. If anything, we’re applauding the fact that everyone’s taking advantage of an amazing opportunity.”
Brand Building Advice
“Post. Post a lot, even if it doesn’t necessarily look the greatest on your feed, just post and get out of your comfort zone. Share things with your followers. They care, they follow you for reason. Share what you’re doing, share advice that you have as a student-athlete. So many kids want to be in the position that you’re in. So many people dream of being in your shoes, share your experiences with them. Share advice on how they can become you in the future and help build your sport.”