When the clock struck midnight on July 1, 2021, collegiate athletes from across the country were officially able to capitalize off of their name, image and likeness for the first time in NCAA history.
Many compared the days that followed to the "wild wild west", as student athletes announced partnerships with everything from gaming platforms to Barstool Sports.
As expected, some of the top tier (and well-connected) athletes were able to secure substantial endorsement deals and partnerships. Bryce Young, a sophomore quarterback at the University of Alabama, is nearing the one million dollar mark in sponsorships according to head coach Nick Saban.
"Our quarterback already has approached ungodly numbers—I'm not going to say what they are—and he hasn't even played yet. Hasn't even started," said Saban. "It's almost seven figures. And it's like, the guy hasn't even played yet. But that's because of our brand."
While a handful of student athletes will be marketable enough to pull in massive deals relatively easily, the vast majority will need to be far more pro-active in their search in order to capitalize on legitimate financial opportunities. That's where a company like A2A Sports comes in. With many student athletes still unaware of how the new NIL guidelines can benefit them, A2A Sports aims to connect those athletes with agencies that can help them develop their brands and capitalize off of their social media presence.
Co-founded by three University of Michigan students - Seth Sugar, Madeleine Calcagno and Michigan Football's Jordan Morant - A2A Sports is one of the first businesses of its kind.
"We both understand the power of social media," said Sugar. "We reached out to a small brand in Miami and said, 'Jordan has 13 thousand followers on Instagram, how much would you be willing to pay for a sponsored post?' We were thinking maybe a few hundred bucks, but these guys came back with a far larger number. That's when we realized there was a substantial market to play on."
Realizing the opportunity before them, the two got to work on a business model months before NIL would officially go into effect.
"We brought in some benefactors and we got to work," said Sugar. "We started connecting with some of the top athletes in the NCAA and, for about eight months before the announcement actually came to fruition in July 1 of this summer, we worked with influencers with some of the top marketing agencies in the world. So we had eight months of experience putting together campaigns, we were ready to hit the ground running."
For Morant, A2A Sports have proven to be beneficial in multiple ways as both a co-founder and client. As a student athlete at the University of Michigan, Morant's jam-packed schedule doesn't necessarily allow for spending several hours each day securing NIL deals for himself - particularly during the fall months. As a result, Morant says that A2A Sports has helped put him in a position to succeed in the world of NIL by doing much the work on his behalf.
"I'm having them deal with all of my NIL deals," said Morant. "They're helping me manage everything so I don't have to focus on all of that stuff going on outside of football."
Though Morant took a calculated and measured approach to NIL, he says the initial days were chaotic as a student athlete.
"I knew that people were going to reach out," said Morant. "For me, I wanted to wait it out. I didn't want to take any small offers, because you have to know how much you're worth. You don't want to do anything that's so low that it isn't worth your time."
According to Sugar, Morant's patience was a smart move when considering all of the pitfalls student athletes can fall victim to.
"What Jordan did that was smart was that he waited to sign with agencies and waited to engage with brands. You forfeit your exclusivity if you engage with brands, just you and the brand - which is very unattractive for agencies looking to sign these kids. Giving up your exclusivity for a few hundred bucks here and there in the first week - frankly these kids were being taken advantage of."
Though the three co-founders are students at the University of Michigan, they offer their services nationwide to student athletes who are looking for NIL guidance.
You can watch our full interview with Morant and Sugar below. For more information, visit the A2A Sports website here.