By Zac Cornell
His dad may be legendary Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, but Jackson State University’s freshman star quarterback Shedeur Sanders is making his own history on and off the field.
Taking advantage of the NCAA’s new name, image, and likeness rules, Sanders has already secured an extraordinary lineup of brand endorsements. In September he became the youngest brand ambassador for Apple’s Beats by Dre and the first college athlete spokesperson for the company.
Sanders also signed an endorsement deal with Gatorade, becoming the first HBCU athlete in history to sign with the brand and their second collegiate athlete ambassador after University of Connecticut basketball star Paige Bueckers.
Finally, Sanders became one of 10 college athletes to be named as spokesmodels for Tom Brady’s new luxury athleisure line Brady.
Sanders also had a stellar year on the field, and was bestowed the Jerry Rice Award which is awarded to the top freshman in all of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Sanders’ marketing savvy and success is not surprising considering he was trained by his father, a master of self-promotion. But based on these early partnerships, Shedeur has proven he has not only picked up his father’s athletic ability, but also his knack for high profile fame. His extraordinary social media following, with 451K Instagram followers, 176K Tik Tok followers, and 24.9K Twitter followers, makes him even more attractive to brands wanting to build on his star power.
All NCAA athletes should take note. A significant social media following plays a major role in landing endorsements. Gatorade’s first college athlete signee Bueckers has 947K followers on Instagram alone! That’s not to say that her extraordinary skills as a player, winning the Wooden Award, the Naismith Trophy, numerous Big East Conference Awards, and being named player of the year by The Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association didn’t impact the company’s decision as well! But building social media presence is a powerful way for college athletes to get noticed by brands and capitalize on the NIL rules.