Tennessee Athletes Get Creative With Endorsement Deals

Posted on July 9, 2021

The NCAA’s new NIL policy went into effect on July 1, 2021. This new policy allows college athletes to make money off or their own name, image, and likeness.

Players are able to earn compensation through appearances, signings, clinics, camps, and most popularly, product endorsements.

Athletes at the University of Tennessee have already begun announcing endorsement deals with various brands.

YOKE, Tennessee athletes take advantage of NIL policy

Atlanta-based gaming brand YOKE is one of the quickest companies to take a crack at the action. The app gives fans the ability to play video games alongside some of their favorite athletes.

Once the NCAA’s new NIL policy became active, YOKE made an announcement on Instagram. The brand revealed that it would begin compensating thousands of college athletes through endorsement deals beginning on July 1, 2021.

After that, players took to their own Instagram accounts to begin announcing partnerships with the brand. Tennessee football stars that have joined forces with YOKE so far include include:

  • LB Aaron Willis
  • DL LaTrell Bumphus
  • DB Theo Jackson
  • WR Velus Jones Jr.

YOKE benefits from massive player following

One of Tennessee’s most popular football players, 24 year-old Velus Jones Jr., has a substantial Instagram following that tops 16,000 followers. In addition, linebacker Aaron Willis boasts nearly 9,000 followers, while defensive lineman LaTrell Bumphus has almost 7,000.

YOKE can potentially of reach over 34,000 new customers with all of their new player partnerships.

Jackson made a post on Instagram commemorating his new deal:

“We are COLLEGE ATHLETES… We are building our brands and working everyday to be the best student-athletes we can be. We finally have the chance to get paid for marketing opportunities. This is my first paid post announcing I’ve joined @yokegaming. All fans can now game with me on the @yokegaming app. All athletes DM me and I can help you get set up and let’s get PAID.”

College football players, however, aren’t the only ones making a foray into this new market. Rising Tennessee basketball star Kennedy Chandler has also taken the deal.

To prepare athletes for this new rule change, Tennessee Athletics has created a handful of inititvates to guide students through these endorsement deals and to help them make smart business decisions.

These current athletes will join the handful of VFL athletes that have already joined the app, including Kahlil McKenzie, Rashaan Gaulden, and Josh Dobbs.

College athletes get creative with brand endorsements

YOKE isn’t the only brand with an egg in the frying pan when it comes to newly-endorsed college athletes. Many players are taking advantage of the new NIL policy in creative ways.

Some players have created profiles on popular sites such as Cameo. The website allows fans to pay athletes, actors, and other celebrities to create personalized videos for them.

Along with Bumphus, other members of the Vols football team have also established their profiles, including running back Jabari Small, quarterback Joe Milton, and offensive lineman Dayne Davis. Basketball power forwards John Fulkerson and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield have also joined the site.

Walk-on wide receiver Grant Frerking already owns his own multi-million dollar mulch and pine straw company. Thanks to the new NIL policy, the fifth-year senior’s company is now endorsed by quarterback Brian Maurer and wide receiver Velus Jones Jr.

On the other hand, Tennessee online sportsbooks cannot partner up with local athletes to promote business.

On May 11, Gov. Bill Lee signed HB1351 into law, which prohibits athletes from using their NIL to promote gambling, tobacco, alcohol, and adult entertainment.

Photo by Dreamstime
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Alec Cunningham

As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. She then returned to her love of written word in 2000 after working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer. As a journalist, she's covered a variety of topics and currently specializes in Tennessee online sports betting and Virginia casino news. She served as a panelist at this year's All American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry.

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