Making the Most of NIL with Kendall Lee

NIL has been a game-changer for Kendall Lee. A fifth-year senior, she is working to get her MBA while finishing her final softball season with the Memphis Tigers. 

Throughout her time as a college athlete, Lee has been active on TikTok and has grown her following to 27.7K+ by posting consistently. In her final season, she’s taken NIL as an opportunity to earn extra income instead of trying to juggle a job. 

“NIL is an easier way to be able to still play and make a little bit of money,” she said. “You don’t have to go find a job and play, then try to balance the two.” 

Her consistency on social media, including keeping sponsored content on brand to her feed, has paid off. One deal with QuillBot generated 2.3M+ TikTok views, providing her significant reach and giving the brand huge ROI.

@kendall_lee11 #ad Who doesn’t love a good school hack?! Go check out QuillBot.com #ad #quillbot #schoolhack #fyp #viral ♬ Use my sound – jazzy

Securing NIL Opportunities 

As an MBA student, Lee has learned how to manage her NIL opportunities. Through her course work, she understands more about how brands view partnerships. 

“I’m in marketing classes, so it really helps when companies come to me with deals,” she said. “I actually understand the money part of it. I can hold a conversation so I know what I’m getting and what they want.” 

Navigating almost 10 NIL partnerships, Lee is an excellent example of being proactive and connecting with brands she’s interested in. 
 
“I’m not a huge name in the softball world. I’ll DM a company, tell them a little bit about myself and about my TikTok. I have a good audience on TikTok, so I throw that in there. Then if they’re willing to collab, they’ll DM me back, we’ll have a conversation. They usually put the deal through Opendorse.” Adding that, “A lot of companies ship stuff to me. Depending on how long shipping takes, I’ll make videos, post, and then get that out. The money comes almost immediately after you submit proof [of completing the deal] through Opendorse.” 

Tools and Support Resources

Lee doesn’t sit on the sidelines. She typically makes the first move when it comes to brand deals. The Opendorse Opportunities feature helps by making it easy for student-athletes to be proactive. Opportunities gives student-athletes a simple way to start engaging in NIL. 

“I just go through there (Opportunities) and filter through and see what fits me, what I’m interested in, and then I just apply for those,” she explained. “I think it’s super important just because my name’s not so big and I don’t have brands constantly reaching out. I think it’s just an easier way, a more helpful way, for like smaller sports or somebody to still get benefit from NIL.” 

Lee has also received a lot of support from the Memphis athletic department through education and resources. 

“Memphis has had different meetings and they’ll send emails with different resources and reminders,” she said. “When NIL first started, they sent emails, step by step, and how to do everything. We have like a little workshop where you could go and learn more and listen to people talk about NIL. They’ve been helpful, providing a lot of resources and just help us through this different process.”  

NIL Beyond Social Media 

As a Memphis native playing collegiately in her hometown, Lee has a name in the local community. She has tapped into her NIL as an opportunity to hold private lessons and give back to those who have supported her for many years as she played softball at the youth and high school level. 

“Now with NIL, I can promote my name,” she explained. “Being local and in my hometown, a lot of people know my name from high school. It’s easier for me to be able to promote [lessons and camps] with my name and my image. I’m also looking to do clinics and local camps.”  

Advice to Other Student-Athletes 

As one of the first Memphis Tigers and members of her team to secure NIL deals, Lee has been asked a lot of questions around navigating NIL opportunities. 

“I was one of the first people on my team to get a deal, so of course all the other girls asked, ‘How are you doing this and all that?’” she said. “Basically, I took their phone and walked them through Opendorse. I showed them all the features that you can do and then also just walked them through kind of like a sample message of what I send to companies. I think it really benefited them. I know my other teammates have now had a NIL deal.”  

For Lee, it comes back to putting yourself out there to create your own NIL “luck.” 

“Don’t wait for people to come to you and reach out to you – especially smaller sports, like softball. Don’t be afraid to throw your name out there and reach out to other companies. I think a lot of people just wait. They just sit around, wait, and just hope. I learned throughout NIL you can’t be afraid just reach out to brands.”  

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