Tom Brady’s Apparel Line Launch Shows How Brands Can Successfully Partner With College Athletes

Edition #8

Happy Friday! It’s been a busy week in the social media, influencer marketing, and creator economy space. I’m excited to share what I’ve been paying attention to most. For those on East Coast, enjoy the weekend being snowed in! Now, let’s get into it.

Today’s Edition:

  • Tom Brady signs NIL deals with college students to promote his new apparel line

  • U.S. listeners want more influencer-hosted podcasts

  • The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is cracking down on influencers

Tom Brady Taps College Athletes For The Launch Of BRADY Brand

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, Tom Brady, recently debuted BRADY Brand, his new namesake apparel line featuring socks, beanies, t-shirts, hoodies, bomber jackets, and more.

The NFL great signed nine college athletes to NIL deals to help promote the line. Jackson State QB Shedeur Sanders (the son of Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders), Michigan QB Cade McNamara, UCLA tennis player Patrick Zahraj, Boston College hockey player Jack St. Ivany, and Maryland basketball player Julian Reese are among those serving as brand ambassadors.

The athletes have appeared in promotional videos alongside Brady, have been used as models in marketing materials, and have shared branded content across social media platforms to promote the partnership.

Brady's entry into the NIL space delivers the latest example of brands increasingly tapping into student-athletes rather than traditional celebrities or influencers. The quarterback could have turned to friends in the celebrity or professional sports world, but he chose to take the student-athlete route, which became possible thanks to July's NIL legislation being passed.

Here is a breakdown of what makes this a good move:

  • Brady's star power alone is enough to reach any audience, but by engaging college athletes, he can better connect with a younger demographic and maximize reach within that demographic.

  • The athletes align with the brand's positioning and messaging. Student-athletes are a no-brainer for brands whose ethos revolves around dedication, hard work, and commitment. Whatever their sport or playing level, student-athletes must possess these qualities to balance the classroom, the playing field, and their social lives. Also, they fit with the "technical apparel for living and training" branding. Thanks to the unique lifestyle college athletics bring, these athletes can highlight the various products, from training to hanging out on campus.

  • Bringing student-athletes onboard as brand ambassadors allow them to more deeply connect to the brand. Rather than running a one-off campaign to promote the launch, these athletes can support the brand on an ongoing basis and have multi-touchpoints with their followers.

  • Brady teaming up with this new generation of athletes isn't too different from when a legacy company does a cross-brand collaboration with a new direct-to-consumer (DTC) disruptor. Brady strengthens his already established presence while these athletes enhance their credibility through a co-sign with a player who many people consider to be the GOAT.

  • NIL has become one of the most covered topics in media. Because of the uncharted territory, major and local publications pick up coverage of everything and anything NIL. Brady can generate PR for anything he touches, but the connection with student-athletes will help generate additional PR.

As a former student-athlete and a current marketer, the NIL has captured my attention the most in the last six months. The creator economy can't exist without the ability for anyone and everyone to monetize their name, image, and likeness, so I'm thrilled that athletes can cash in on their work on and off the field.

As I shared in my 2022 predictions for influencer marketing and the creator economy a few weeks ago, brands have a tremendous opportunity to diversify and expand their influencer marketing efforts by collaborating with student-athletes.

Brady's approach can serve as a foundation for how brands can successfully activate student-athlete partnerships, such as partnering with athletes who share the brand's values and mission, and working with athletes of different sports and levels, instead of just the major players.

Podcast Listeners Want New Shows From YouTubers & Influencers

Podcasts hosted by YouTubers and influencers are in high demand, according to a study by Acast and Nielsen.

According to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, nearly 40% of listeners want new shows from YouTubers and influencers, topping demand for shows from health experts (28%), music personalities (28%), and TV personalities (27%).

Study results also indicate that podcast consumption has increased over the last six months more than any other form of media. Consumption is also expected to increase in the next six months, with 41% of listeners predicting they will increase their consumption.

In terms of podcast advertising, most listeners don't mind hearing ads. Only 25% of listeners are concerned about too many advertisements on podcasts. The majority of listeners say they listen to advertisements, and 73% say they act after hearing an advertisement. 50% of podcast listeners said podcast advertising is the best way to reach them and 55% say they think more positively of brands that advertise on their favorite podcasts.

This study is timely as a growing number of creators have launched podcasts over the past two years, notables being names like Addison Rae, the D'Amelio sisters, Emma Chamberlain, Rickey Thompson, and Denzel Dion.

Many creators, big and small, have embraced podcasting as a different way to connect with their fans and generate revenue. Podcasts allow creators to express themselves in a way that cannot be achieved in 15-second TikToks or Instagram pictures. Podcasting can also be lucrative for creators, offering a new platform for branded content or even exclusive partnerships with podcasting platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

With creators interested in connecting with their audience and monetizing, podcasts have become a viable option. Adding in the demand for influencer-hosted podcasts, expect to see more creators utilize the audiences they build on social media to launch new podcasts, much to the delight of listeners as well as brands.

Podcast advertisers are welcomed by listeners, according to the study. Due to this, brands have the opportunity to partner with creators on sponsored podcast content, such as ad reads and branded segments. Podcasts can be an effective channel for brands because creators showcase their personalities on behalf of the brand and dig deep into brand messaging throughout an episode. Combining these longer integrations with promo and discount codes can be a powerful way to raise brand awareness and encourage listeners to make purchases.

A fully-fleshed-out strategy isn't needed for brands to start experimenting with podcast activations either. To get started, brands can add podcasts as a deliverable for creators who already have podcasts and who partner with the brand on social media content. Learnings from smaller tests and experiments can be utilized for more comprehensive podcast campaigns.

The ASA Is Cracking Down On Influencers Who Don’t Disclose Paid Partnerships

The Advertising Standards Authority, UK’s independent advertising regulator, recently sanctioned six Instagram influencers for failing to disclose ads on their accounts.

After the ASA released its March 2021 Influencer Ad Disclosure on Social Media report, which found that only 35% of influencer ads were adequately labeled, the ASA developed a new website to display influencers who did not properly disclose paid partnerships despite multiple warnings.

Along with adding these influencers to the website, the ASA also recently launched ads informing people that these influencers aren't complying with the necessary rules regarding social media advertising. It plans to continue running these ads until improvements are made by the influencers. However, it says it will take more direct action if non-compliance continues to occur.

While the ASA's stance and actions may seem extreme to some, others might argue that it is appropriate. In an age when more brands are turning to influencer marketing, it's even more important for consumers to know when they are seeing advertisements vs. when they are seeing organic content.

Federal Trade Commission, the governing body in the U.S., has not really punished influencers when it comes to non-disclosure, but has punished brands and social media platforms.

That could change in the near future, however. As influencer marketing activities increase, there will likely be more cases of sponsored content not being properly disclosed. It could lead the FTC to start to take legal actions against individual influencers who don’t comply, similar to what the ASA is currently doing.

Recent initiatives by social media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, aim to alleviate this issue through automated tagging of sponsored content as ‘Paid Partnerships’ or prompting creators to add disclosure, using artificial intelligence. Despite the efforts being made, there are still issues, especially as the lines blur between content shared on behalf of a brand and organic endorsements of products and services. In order to ensure that disclosure guidelines are being followed and to protect consumers, all stakeholders that play a role in influencer marketing have some responsibilities.

The only way that this becomes less of an issue is if the social media platforms, brands, influencer agencies, and creators all play their respective roles. Social media platforms need to continue building tools to make disclosures prominent. Brands need to ensure their creator partners properly disclose branded content. Influencer agencies and platforms must educate their clients around proper disclosure and influencers themselves should take pride in letting their followers know when they share sponsored content.

Consumers themselves can also be involved. As of today, none of the social media platforms allow users to report content that they believe is sponsored but fails to disclose that fact. Instagram, TikTok, or any of the other platforms could easily add support for them within their current reporting tools. Users can currently report content that they think violates platform guidelines, such as hate speech or copyright infringement, but there is nothing related to improper advertising disclosure.

Quick Hits

TikTok is testing creator subscriptions. Shortly after Instagram announced its new Subscriptions feature, TikTok confirmed it is also currently testing support for paid subscriptions to help creators monetize. However, the platform didn’t provide any specific details.

While the short-form video format isn't well suited for subscription content, TikTokers do have a really loyal audience, so subscriptions may work for the platform if it launches them. One of the biggest benefits of TikTok is its creator-friendly For You feed that can help creators rack up millions and millions of views. Putting content behind a paywall could have a profound impact on creators’ reach. Today, creators can already monetize through TikTok's Creator Next initiative, which includes access to TikTok Creator Marketplace, where creators can be discovered for branded content deals, and as well as through Tips, which allows them to receive direct support from their followers. TikTok also offers the TikTok Creator Fund, where creators are rewarded based on their content's performance. Recently, TikTok has come under fire for this fund due to low payments. The addition of subscriptions would give creators yet another way to earn a living.

Instagram now allows users to remix all videos. Earlier this year, the platform allowed users to remix Reels videos, but now it is expanding its capabilities to all video formats. When users come across any Instagram video, they can create a Reel using all or some parts of the video, given the creators have enabled settings.

As a result of these enhanced capabilities, creators have another way to express their creativity by responding to, reacting to, or giving their take on other creators' videos. Similar to TikTok's Video Replies and Duets, Instagram's Remix feature along with Pinterest Takes and Twitter Takes all promote co-creation and engagement. These features essentially enable everyone to be a creator since they lower the barrier to entry by providing users with a starting point and an idea to build their content on.

Instagram launched Live in Profiles. Live In Profiles gives creators the ability to display a badge for scheduled Instagram Lives on their profiles to let anyone who visits their profiles know that they have an upcoming live stream. When visitors click on the badge, they can sign up for a reminder. When creators add multiple Lives, they will be displayed as a side-scrolling list.

Live In Profiles enhances discoverability for upcoming Lives. In addition to promoting future Lives through in-feed and Story content, creators can drive more awareness with profile visitors and potentially drive viewership when they do go live. Since initially launching in 2016, Instagram has slowly built out its live-streaming capabilities

Twitter introduced a new NFT Profile Pictures feature. As of right now, only users who subscribe to Twitter Blue, the platform’s subscription service, can access the feature. Through NFT Profile Pictures, users can showcase NFTs they own by setting them as their Twitter profile pictures. Under their profile picture settings, they have a new option where they can connect a crypto wallet such as Coinbase Wallet and Metamask and upload any NFT in that particular wallet as their profile picture in the shape of a hexagon.

The launch of NFT Profile Pictures is of little surprise. Many crypto enthusiasts already have NFTs as their profile pictures on Twitter, but the new feature can help distinguish the fake NFT owners from the real ones. NFTs' growing popularity is a major reason why social media platforms are launching, testing, or even considering NFT integration. As Twitter has demonstrated, social media has played a crucial role in bringing people together around NFTs, creating community, and helping increase user engagement, something that most social media platforms look to do.

In a recent letter, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki detailed YouTube’s priorities for 2022. Key highlights include: improving the overall creator experience, testing ways for creators to monetize Shorts through branded content deals, launching monetization options for podcasts, bringing shopping to more creators and brands through new partnerships with e-commerce platforms and experiences, and exploring NFTs integration. In addition, Wojcicki revealed that the number of channels around the world earning more than $10,000 is up 40% year after year.

From creator monetization to short-form video to live shopping to NFTs, YouTube’s priorities are on the right path, considering they align with current emerging trends. These priorities will help keep creators and their viewers engaged on the platform, which should also increase brand investments in the platform. Shorts, in particular, could have a big year with more creators leveraging the format for organic growth as well as brands exploring partnerships with Shorts creators.

LinkedIn is asking creators what monetization features they are most interested in. LinkedIn is asking creators to identify the top three ways they want to monetize their content and posts through a survey that appears only to select users. Among the answers are subscriptions, affiliate payments, brand partnerships, content partnerships, direct ad/revenue share, and creator funds.

Like other social media platforms, LinkedIn is looking into ways to help creators monetize their content and audience. LinkedIn currently provides select creators with funds through its Creator Accelerator Program, but, besides that, monetization doesn’t exist. More thought-leaders, increased activity from traditional creators on the app, and new content formats should lead to the launch of monetization options sooner rather than later.

Chart Of The Week

Nearly 75% of U.S. Marketers Are Expected To Use Influencer Marketing In 2022

This year, 74.5% of U.S. marketers will use influencer marketing, according to a recent study by eMarketer. This is a slight increase from last year when just under 70% of U.S. marketers used influencer marketing. In 2025, it's expected that 86% of U.S. marketers will use influencer marketing.

What I’m Reading

  • How fan communities can help create a ‘middle class’ of artists and content creators (Rolling Stone)

  • How Discord became the “SoHo House of Web 3.0” (Vogue Business)

  • Maybe creator funds are bad (TechCrunch)

  • Stitch Fix is leaning on celebrities like Venus Williams as it tries to expand its customer base (Modern Retail)

  • The new personal website isn’t really a website at all (The Atlantic)