Trevor Bassitt Shares How DII Student-Athletes Can Benefit from NIL

While DI football stars are securing flashy deals and national media coverage, NIL is making an impact for NCAA DII and DIII student-athletes. Track & Field standout Trevor Bassitt from Ashland University has done several NIL deals, using his last year of eligibility to chase another national championship and make the most of his NIL opportunities.  

With multiple national titles to his name and a run at the Olympic trials, Trevor Bassitt was debating whether to turn professional or use his last remaining year of NCAA eligibility. NIL played a role in his decision to return for his final college season and pursue his master’s degree. 

“Knowing I could come back to school and make money – whether it is through endorsement deals or launching my own merch line, knowing that those options were available to me now – made coming back to school to get my master’s…a no brainer.”  

Connecting with Brands

His status as a DII student-athlete wasn’t something Bassitt ever saw as a barrier. He’s leveraged his story of being a non-revenue athlete from a DII school.  

“I’ve been able to kind of use it to my advantage by making it part of my brand as an athlete,” he explained. “I’m an elite athlete, but I often get overlooked because I’m DII or because I’m not in football or basketball. Using that to form this underdog brand that I’m rolling with here has been part of it. And it’s given me more opportunities for the sponsors that I do currently have: I can put everything I have into all of those sponsorship deals to make sure they’re getting the best out of me and out of the deal instead of with other athletes.”  

The timing for Bassitt to partner with brands could not have come at a better moment. When he was debating whether to go pro or stay in school, he began researching endorsements and how to navigate working with brands. 

“When we had an idea that [NIL] was going to happen July 1 – and it was an Olympic year – the game plan was for me to make the Olympic team and turn pro,” he said. “I had already started. I was reading books on athlete brand marketing on how to market myself. I was a professional athlete building a brand, all of that stuff. When I didn’t make the Olympic team, but NIL still passed, I had this groundwork and framework laid. I had a sheet laid out of all these companies I was going to reach out to sponsor me as an athlete.”  

For Bassitt, the foundation for his personal brand included identifying what he is truly passionate about.  

“Who I am and what I stand for is actually what my brand is,” Bassitt said, “because if I try to be something I’m not, it’s really hard to put that stuff online. If you’re not authentic, people aren’t going to listen to your message.” 

He added that being authentic makes fulfilling deals easier. 

“One of my deals requires me to post either once a month on Instagram or do two Instagram Stories a month. That’s super easy for me with the deal I have because I use their product. I value it. It’s authentic for me. For me to post it, I just set up a camera two times a month. When I go to use the product and I record it. It’s easy. It’s just adding something to my routine.”  

Bassitt has educated himself on how to navigate contracts. These legal documents can be confusing and knowing what to look for in a contract can keep student-athletes stay out of disputes.  

“Most companies lay out pretty flat out and simple [terms], and they’ll send you the contract to look over,” he said. “Just make sure you understand what the contract means. The way my school does it, I have to send them the contract before I sign it and they have a team look over it. But personally, I like to look at it first, make sure I understand it, then send it to them and make sure we’re all on the same page. 

“If you’re going to sign a contract, you don’t want any miscommunications. I just look for what they’re asking. How many posts or stories a month? Are they asking you to do appearances? Are they asking you to sign things? Are they offering you gear, merchandise, a monthly stipend commission? Just make sure you fully understand what you’re getting into with the contracts.” 

Once deals are complete, keeping track of activities is critical. 

“I have an Excel spreadsheet,” Bassitt said. “I had it made before I even had a deal because I knew when tax season comes around you have to report it: every company, how much I’ve gotten per month, why I’ve gotten it, what the percentages are. I’ve tallied every dollar, every cent of each deal…When it comes to when I have to report taxes, I can just give this spreadsheet.” 

Just like contracts and taxes, communicating with companies can be nuanced. Bassitt shared that he’s reached out to hundreds of brands and businesses through email and social media messages seeking free product and endorsement opportunities.  

“The worst thing a company can say to you is “no” or not respond, but you’re never going to know if you don’t reach out,” he said. “It’s kind of the same way with recruiting when you’re trying to become a college athlete. College coaches aren’t always knocking on your door. A lot of times you have to go to them, and it’s the same thing for NIL. Don’t be afraid to reach out.” 

Bassitt gives similar advice to his teammates and other student-athletes who reach out asking how he navigates NIL. It’s all about being prepared and proactive. 

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to the companies. It all ties back to endorsing products that you use or at least would like to use. If you endorse a product that you don’t like or that you haven’t used or don’t ever want to use, then it’s just going to come off as fake to people. Your followers aren’t going to buy it. They’re not going to. They can see right through you. Make sure it’s a product that you use and like to use because then you can really go all in with it.” 

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