Marketing College Athletes: How Can We Help California Student-athletes Make Money

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Hello student athlete. My name is Kevin Taylor and I am currently a student attending the Craig School of Business. For my sport marketing class, we must identify student athletes and help them market themselves better, so they can earn money when the Fair Pay to Play Act goes into effect January 1st, 2020. I have sought you out due to your athletic record and excellent academic records.

Many student athletes find that they are not getting back what they view is a fair amount compared to what their coach and university receive as a result of their hard work. Universities can make tens or hundreds of millions in sports revenue based on their student athletes’ performance and their image, while students themselves often do not receive their just compensation.

Enter the Fair Pay to Play Act. This act was recently passed by California Governor Gavin Newsom and was made to empower the student athlete by finally generating income through sponsorships and other promotion-based revenue. This is proving to be a game changer, as student athletes are now eligible to earn tens to even potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars for their hard work.

This act originated in California, but is now spreading through several other states, challenging the NCAA’s archaic “amateurism” rules. These rules long have held that there is an assumption that collegiate athletes are financially stable “enough”, hence how they are able to attend a university. These rules prohibit NCAA athletes from collecting additional income from things such as sponsorship deals. The university itself is able to pocket this revenue.

Background on The Student Dilemma

As you already know, the life of a student athlete is often a tough one. Full-time students already have enough to worry about, and student athletes more so. A student attending school full time often does not have enough time during the week with class and study to work part-time, at least not enough to pay bills. With student athletes, you have a commitment to attend practice and games. These activities take up all additional free time outside of school. With this, student athletes simply do not have the time to work.

Another problem that all athletes, and by extension student athletes, face is the heightened risk of sport-related injuries. With contact sports; concussions, sprains, tears and fractures are commonplace. Student athletes who cannot find work are often forced to fend for themselves when injured. While the NCAA has required schools to ensure all student athletes have a minimum level of insurance, this often is simply not enough for athletes who do not work and therefore cannot save money needed in case their injuries put them out long-term (Brooks, 2019).

A major issue that can arise from student athletes is the case when an athlete’s likeness is used without permission or compensation. This happened with Ed O’bannon, a former UCLA Division I basketball star, who’s lawsuit against the NCAA regarding compensation for his image and likeness in commercial use, such as EA’s NCAA Basketball 09 videogame (McCann, 2016). O’bannon’s petitions were eventually dismissed from the Supreme Court.

Fair Pay to Play Act

California Governor Gavin Newsom has recently begun to implement the new Fair Pay to Play Act. This act, also known as Senate Bill 206, allows student athletes to collect money for use of their name, image, and likeness by offering endorsement deals, sponsorships and other opportunities (Will Hobson, 2019). Many student athletes have had their likeness and image used without compensation, and they are owed significant dues.

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What does the Fair Pay to Play Act mean for you? Well, as a student athlete, you will finally be able to collect supplementary income from your sport. This income will predominantly come from how you promote yourself, or more specifically in this case, how we promote you. With the new Act, you will be able to collect revenue via sponsorships, celebrity appearances, and other endorsements that rely on your name, image, or likeness. This is due to the Act’s language, specifically where you as the student athlete are recognized as an employee of the university and NCAA. You are there primary reason for their high sales revenue, so it is time that some of that revenue is opened up for you to collect.

How to Market You

For marketing, we like to use the sport marketing mix. This marketing mix consists of five “Ps”. These “Ps” are product, price, place, promotion, and public relations (PR). The first “P” I want to focus on is the product. The product is the final form of what we offer the public, or in this case what we offer the university: you. You are the product, and therefore we need to ensure you get the right amount of physical training and recovery, as well as practice on the field.

The second “P” is price. Price is what we will be charging for our marketing solution. This number will fluctuate, as promotion activities and endorsement deals can fluctuate wildly depending on the context of the deal and your agent. Pricing strategies also reflect ticket and merchandise prices, and we can negotiate what to price these items given the perceived level of demand for the athletes.

The third is place. This one is reasonably straightforward for our use. Place is where our marketing efforts will be focused. For you, this will be CSU-Fresno and the surrounding Fresno area. Place will need to be taken into account when we focus on the content of any messages you put out into the world. This is mainly due to the unique culture and demographics that surround certain areas. The area of Fresno is die hard when it comes to NCAA football, specifically the Fresno State Bulldogs. The area is also moderately conservative and largely ag-focused. This means that putting together messages that support both Fresno State sports and agriculture are likely to resonate strongly with our market.

Fourth is promotion. For promotion, we will focus as much effort online as we do with in-person promotional events. For your online presence, we first need to look at your social media. We should make a new, more professional Instagram page, as well as a Twitter page. These will be used for your athletic career, using images and videos as well as Tweets regarding the world of your sport. In-person promotional events will be handled with autograph signings, T-shirt giveaways, and running marathons or other physical events that get you in front of your audience.

The fifth and final “P” is public relations. Public relations, or “PR”, can often be a career killer when handled poorly. This means you need to take a proactive approach if scandals should arise and try to present yourself as transparently as possible to your audience. One of the golden rules to effective PR would be for the athlete to avoid scandalous behavior. However, mistakes can be made and what is equally or even more important is how the athlete handles scandals and criticism.

A good marketing campaign utilizes the marketing mix as a whole. I believe the best marketing strategy for the student athletes using the new Fair Pay to Play Act is to focus on securing endorsements and sponsorships for the student athlete that they may be able to carry on through their professional athletic careers. Under Armor, Nike, Reebok, and other sports apparel companies have expressed interest in top collegiate athletes. Supplemental income can be secured through physical promotion events, such as autograph signings, as well as securing revenue through advertising and having the athlete featured in EA Sports games. Lastly, the student athlete will secure professional social media accounts and update them regularly, as well as interact with their fan base.


To conclude, the Fair Pay to Play Act is pivotal in giving power back to the student athlete. Using the Five “P’s” of the sport marketing mix, we can begin to build brand equity for a new collegiate athlete. This marketing plan will focus on obtaining sponsorships, as well as proper social media use to develop a devoted following in our target market. This will make them much more marketable and ensure they collect the money earned through their athletic career.


  1. Brooks, K. J. (2019, November 1). NCAA athletes getting paid: Thousands could be in their futures. Retrieved from
  2. Emmert, M. (2019, October 10). If college athletes could profit off their marketability, how much would they be worth? In some cases, millions. Retrieved from
  3. Gaines, C. (2013, September 24). CHART: The Average University Of Texas Football Player Is Worth $578,000. Retrieved from
  4. Gaines, C. (2016, October 14). The difference in how much money schools make off of college sports is jarring, and it is the biggest obstacle to paying athletes. Retrieved from
  5. McCann, M. (2016, October 3). Supreme Court decision leaves NCAA amateurism in limbo. Retrieved from
  6. McLaughlin, E. C. (2019, October 2). California wants its college athletes to get paid, but the NCAA is likely to put up hurdles. Retrieved from
  7. Will Hobson, B. S. (2019, September 30). The California governor signed a law to let NCAA athletes get paid. It's unclear what's next. Retrieved from
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Marketing College Athletes: How Can We Help California Student-athletes Make Money. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from
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