Champs Sports and Eastbay have emerged as leading NIL players in the sports retail industry by featuring student-athletes in various national campaigns.
To promote their holiday sales efforts, the retail brands signed Fresno State women’s basketball stars Haley and Hanna Cavinder and Minnesota wrestler Gable Steveson, who won gold at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. All three athletes are prominently featured on both company’s websites and social media channels.
Champs and Eastbay connected with Oregon women’s basketball standout Sedona Prince and UNINTERRUPTED, LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s athlete empowerment platform, for a More than an Athlete line. More than an Athlete also includes a student-athlete focused podcast hosted by Prince and former Central Florida Football player Donald De La Haye.
They have also connected with athletes around the country for various social media opportunities, including Logan Eggleston (Texas Women’s Volleyball), Margzetta Frazier (UCLA Women’s Gymnastics), Braden Galloway (Clemson Football), Brendan Radley-Hiles (Washington Football), Spencer Rattler (South Carolina Football) and Jon Seaton (Elon Football).
Champs and Eastbay have been deliberate in their partnerships, focusing on supporting athletes and finding the right fit for each concept.
By all measures, they made a strong decision by partnering with Anthony Hamilton Jr., an explosive talent and former two-sport star who spent time at Chicago State and Clemson. He gets social media and partnerships like few athletes do.
“I never run out of ideas, I never have writer’s block,” Hamilton admitted. “Brand engagement and working with different companies as an influencer, as a personality, doing sports content, that’s going to be me until 2035.”
Quality Content Counts
The quality of athlete content coming from Champs and Eastbay is striking. Professional photo shoots. Cinematic videos. Eye-catching backgrounds. On-brand delivery from partners. Investing in content matters and leads to value for all parties: brands, athletes, and fans. It takes work, but the payoff is worth the effort.
It’s one of the reasons why Hamilton was a natural fit. He was heavily engaged in the process. Understanding the importance of delivering for the partner – as well as his own brand and fans – he went above and beyond to do his deal big.
“We talked about different ideas I had, and ideas that the brand had,” said Hamilton, who has almost 650,000 followers across social media. “I told [them] what ideas I thought would perform well on my channels because I put my own twist on everything I do brand-related.”
Asked to provide five photo options and two videos to his brand contact, Hamilton submitted 65 photo options and seven video clips. He hired a drone videographer and did his own production to ensure everything was delivered to his standards. He paid a couple hundred dollars to have the video produced, but it was a strategic decision that could pay off in the future.
By personally investing in building his brand, he made himself even more appealing to future NIL partners.
“We brainstormed a few things, and [they] gave me the content creation freedom to do what I wanted,” he explained. “I reached out to one of the best photographers that lives in Los Angeles because he’s really creative and I wanted to blow it out of the water to continue this partnership.”
It’s safe to say his investment in content is working, as Hamilton said he’s already made over $400,000 in NIL deals.
How to Deliver on Content Expectations
Not everyone will have Hamilton’s savvy and experience, but student-athletes should always discuss deliverable expectations prior to acceptance of NIL opportunities. Some partners will commission a creative agency, others will rely on the athlete to deliver. iPhone photo and video can often work, but good multimedia matters, especially for big dollar deals.
“As I continue to build my resume with these brands,” Hamilton said, “they see my accounts and everything I’ve done brand-wise.” High-quality content equals high-quality deals.
Athletes looking for a freelance videographer can start by connecting with the staff that supports their program. Team creators will likely be unable to film and edit due to NIL policies, but the creator community is well-connected. Chances are they know someone. There are also talented students who would be excited to work with a student-athlete. Set aside an hour a week to get it done.
He is excited about helping the next class of creatives and athletes be successful in the NIL era.
“I want to get into showing college athletes how to build their brand. Building your brand, making sure you’re representable and appetizing to other brands, that’s something I’m passionate about.”