NIL Masterclass: 3 Things We Learned From Morgan Blank – Brandish Sports

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Last week, we launched the Opendorse Ready™ NIL Masterclass – an exclusive addition to the Ready program, the leading NIL readiness solution in college athletics. The NIL Masterclass is built to provide student-athletes with live lessons from leaders and brands in the NIL ecosystem including Instagram, Twitter, the Players’ Tribune, and Momentum.

We kicked off our first session with MLB player marketing expert Morgan Blank. After spending several years in equipment endorsements, Blank currently works with Dodgers pitcher and Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer to manage marketing opportunities and brand development.

Blank shared experiences from her background, offering lessons learned from repping one of the MLB’s fastest-rising stars.

Here are three top takeaways from the NIL Masterclass with Morgan Blank:

1. Screen opportunities with your goals

Many professional athletes wait months, if not years, for their first endorsement opportunity. When a brand finally comes knocking? That’s big news. The temptation can be to agree to terms immediately. But a more tactful approach can prove valuable for athletes in the short and long term.

First things first, it’s important to know your personal brand goals. Where do you want to be a year from now? 5 years? 10 years?

Blank says every deal opportunity for Bauer begins with that conversation. They go to “the sheet” and weigh how an opportunity can help or hurt their stated goals. They ask things like…

  • What endorsements do I want now or down the road?
  • What publications or media outlets do I want to be featured in?
  • Does this fit my current personal brand, or the brand I want to build?
  • Does the deal offered help me achieve my monetary goals?
  • How could this deal impact my legacy?

If the opportunity is line with your stated goals, then it makes sense to pursue. For Blank and Bauer, these goals provide a clear way to screen inbound opportunities.

2. Embrace your fans (but don’t be afraid to attract new ones)

Establishing a niche audience on social is a powerful thing. You know this group of people really care about what you share. 

Athletes with niche audiences can easily attract brands looking to reach those interest-specific fans. But, depending on the size of that audience, that niche likely has a ceiling. There’s only so many fans you can reach with that specific interest. 

For Bauer, his niche audience matched his very specific interests of pitch design, mechanics, and data analysis. This what Bauer has been known for and what he loves to create content about.

But the potential audience for that content was quickly tapped. To expand his following to more casual fans, kids, and a general baseball audience, Bauer needed to evolve his content.

So Blank and Bauer went to the drawing board and created a plan to maintain appeal with his original audience, but expand his content to reach to more fans. 

He launched a series of more casual fan-facing videos – Fan Fridays, the Trevor Bauer Show,  and interviews with teammates, MLB players, and other industry professionals. 

As he nears the 2021 season, Blank and Bauer have new goals on the horizon, including an international expansion of his audience. To do so, they plan to begin translating content to specific languages and even making merchandise for international fan bases.

3. Deals don’t stop at social (but many start there)

Many forecasts of the NIL-eligible future tend to focus on social media as the primary type of endorsement opportunities for future student-athletes. While social media endorsements are sure to play a large role in the near future, many other deal opportunities will likely be available to athletes. 

Trevor Bauer is a great example of an athlete who hasn’t restricted himself to social media deals. Here are a few opportunities that go beyond social:

  • Merchandising: Bauer has created a valuable revenue stream with fan merch.
  • Image use: commercials, billboards, or point of sale
  • In-person appearances
  • Virtual meet-and-greets
  • Camps or clinics
  • Autograph signings
  • Video shoutouts
  • Live broadcasting

While social media isn’t involved in every opportunity, Blank shared that Bauer’s investment in building his personal brand has been a foundation for his future marketability. His activity on Youtube has led to multiple opportunities, including a current deal with LIDS. 

So, while not every paid opportunity will include a social media activation, an athlete’s audience size and activity can create a powerful impression on potential brand partners. 

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