Rising tennis star
In an interview with Our Weekly, highly touted Norfolk State University tennis star Breana Cook talks about NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) sponsorship deals and her experience and thoughts on the process.
Question: What was your initial NIL process like?
Answer: “I signed up for multiple NIL platforms but didn’t receive any offers through these platforms initially. Then I found a platform called PlayBooked that connects student-athletes to NIL opportunities like sponsorships and endorsements, which has helped connect me with relevant opportunities that align with my interests.”
Q: How do athletes acquire deals? Is it only for star athletes?
A: “Athletes can acquire NIL deals in various ways, such as sponsorships, social media endorsements, and merchandise sales. While an athlete’s popularity and sport may play a role in the types of NIL opportunities they receive, having a strong social media presence and a well-defined personal brand can also create opportunities for athletes to connect with businesses.”
Q: Were there any deals you turned down, and if so, why?
A: “As a college athlete new to the world of NIL, I have not yet been presented with any deals to turn down. NIL deals in college sports are still relatively new and evolving, so I am carefully evaluating any potential opportunities that come my way.”
Q: Do you feel like you have to work harder for your deals, and if yes, why?
A: “To be honest, I do feel like I have to work harder to secure NIL deals. As female HBCU (Historical Black Colleges and Universities) tennis athletes, we face unique challenges due to the lack of exposure and resources available to us. With fewer media coverage and sponsorship opportunities, gaining visibility and attracting potential brand partnerships can be difficult. In addition, women’s sports often receive less attention and funding than men’s sports, which results in fewer opportunities for female athletes to showcase their skills and attract potential sponsors.”
Q: What’s your opinion on why female athletes receive fewer deals?
A: “As I mentioned in my previous response, the main reason why female athletes receive fewer deals is due to a historical lack of attention and funding compared to men’s sports. This means fewer sponsorship opportunities, fewer media coverage, and limited ability to engage with fans, ultimately affecting female athletes’ marketability. In addition, gender bias could be a contributing factor, as many companies still perceive male athletes to be more marketable and lucrative than female athletes, despite that female athletes are equally talented and have significant followings.”
Q: What impact has H&R Block “A Fair Shot” program had on your NIL deals?
A: “I am pleased to say that the program has positively impacted my ability to secure NIL deals. As a tennis athlete in a less popular sport, it can be challenging to gain recognition and exposure compared to athletes in more high-profile sports like basketball and football. However, through H&R Block’s “A Fair Shot” program, I connected with fans and promoted myself more effectively, which helped increase my visibility and provided an opportunity to attract potential brand partnerships.”
Q: What are some things you would change about the NIL process?
A: “The top three things I would change about the NIL process are:
1. The number of sports seen. Football and basketball should not be the only sports recognized when considering NIL opportunities. Athletes who play tennis, softball, volleyball, and other sports also have a significant impact on their communities;
2. Recognizing HBCUs more. HBCUs may not have the same resources or exposure as more prestigious universities, but they should not be overlooked as they have a rich history and have produced many talented athletes who deserve recognition as well;
3. Consider more factors than social media influence when evaluating an athlete’s marketability. In addition to social media impact, other elements such as an athlete’s performance, community involvement, and personal values should also be taken into account.”
Q: Do you think going to an HBCU has helped or hindered your NIL sponsorships?
A: “The disadvantage of attending an HBCU is that it has fewer resources and a smaller media presence compared to more prominent universities, which makes it harder for me to attract the attention of brands and secure deals. However, the advantage of attending an HBCU provides me with a unique platform to stand out and differentiate myself from other athletes, especially in areas such as social justice, diversity, and inclusion, which aligns with the values of many brands that are looking for athletes with a strong and authentic voice in these areas. In addition, attending an HBCU inspires others to attend HBCUs and become part of a growing movement in college athletics.”
Q: What is some advice you would give to HBCU athletes about NIL?
• “Educate yourself: Take the time to understand the laws, regulations, and tax implications surrounding NIL.
• “Build your brand: As an athlete, you have a unique platform and audience and capitalize on it.
• “Seek out partnerships: Look for opportunities to partner with brands that align with your values and interests.
• “Protect yourself: Make sure you understand the terms of any agreements you sign and seek legal advice if necessary.
• “Stay focused: Remember that your primary focus should always be your athletic performance and academics.
• “Be determined: Don’t allow limited resources to deter you from developing your brand.
• “Be proactive and creative: Increase your social media presence, directly contact brands, leverage relationships with other athletes, etc.”