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Moving to capitalize on rule changes that allow college athletes to profit from their names, images and likenesses, United Wholesale Mortgage is expanding a social media marketing campaign that pays athletes at Michigan State University up to $700 a month to plug the company on social media.
UWM launched the campaign last year after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced a new policy allowing athletes to profit from their own “name, image and likeness” (NIL).
The Pontiac, Michigan-based wholesale mortgage lender announced Thursday that it will continue to offer “sponsorships” to members of Michigan State’s basketball and football teams and is expanding the marketing program to include members of MSU’s women’s basketball and volleyball teams.
The sponsorships provide up to $700 per month for the full academic year for athletes who publish social media promotions assigned by UWM on their own social accounts. The posts “will focus on the benefits of working with an independent mortgage broker, in addition to the career opportunities available at UWM’s headquarters in Pontiac,” the company said.
“The NIL deals we made last year with MSU’s men’s basketball and football players was one of the first and largest deals at the time,” said UWM CEO Mat Ishbia, in a statement. “We wanted to get our feet wet and test it out, and we’re happy we did as the success has been more than expected.”
UWM is one of many companies that saw an opportunity in the July 1, 2021, NCAA rule changes governing name, image and likeness.
Within a week of the announcement, Unilever, PetSmart and Boost Mobile were among brands signing NIL agreements with college athletes to promote their businesses, the ad industry trade publication Digiday reported.
In March, a highly recruited high school athlete signed a NIL agreement that could pay him more than $8 million by the end of his junior year in college, The Athletic reported.
But according to Danielle Wiley, the founder and CEO of Sway Group, an agency that specializes in influencer marketing, there’s an opportunity to sign not only star players in high-profile sports, but to partner with athletes at every level of every sport.
“The high-end of the NIL market may get the most attention, but the majority of deals are smaller and more localized,” Wiley said in a Forbes guest piece. “NIL marketing is also generally much less expensive than institutional sponsorships. Instead of spending the big bucks for signage on the field, brands can support student-athletes directly.”
While NIL deals tend to be associated with football and basketball, Wiley said depending on their objective, marketers “may find they get more engagement with players from other sports” like swimming, volleyball, cheerleading and lacrosse.
Last year, UWM announced it would provide $500-a-month stipends to all 133 members of MSU’s men’s football and basketball teams or $6,000 per player.
“We’re excited to expand this opportunity to all of the athletes on the women’s basketball and volleyball teams and are eager to see the influence they have on educating consumers about career opportunities at UWM and the benefits of working with an independent mortgage broker,” Ishbia said in announcing the expanded program.
As a walk-on point guard at MSU, Ishbia was a member of the 2000 NCAA championship team, featuring Mateen Cleaves who now works at UWM.
In February 2021, Ishbia donated $32 million to MSU’s athletic program, some of which is earmarked for a Spartan for Life Fund focused on leadership and career development and an MSU Athletics Excellence Fund, which provides “flexible and unrestricted resources,” UWM said.
UWM’s Michigan-based rival Rocket Mortgage also actively markets itself through sports including college athletics. When Michigan State University athletic teams take to the field (or the ice, or the court), they’re introduced as the “MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage.”
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