How WVU football players can benefit from partnership with Jeremy Darlow

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As part of Neal Brown’s continued effort to develop his student-athletes beyond the football field, WVU announced a partnership with brand marketing consultant and author Jeremy Darlow last week.

Darlow is the former director of marketing for Adidas football and baseball. He has also written a pair of best-selling books, ‘Brands Win Championships’ and ‘Athletes are Brands Too’.

“When I was in college, I was one of the few that at twenty-one years old knew where I wanted to be,” Darlow said. “I knew I wanted to be the head of brand marketing for football at Nike or Adidas and literally built a plan at twenty-one years old to get that. I really believe the reason I got there was because I had a road map.”

Darlow has consulted with several prominent universities, including Georgia Tech, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, UCLA and Wisconsin. He says elite level athletes must always be planning for life beyond the game.

“What I realized especially on the athlete front is once they take that jersey off, there really wasn’t a plan. They didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do after their sports lives. Even some of the most successful athletes end their sports career well before they are forty. There’s another fifty years to go. What are you going to do with the rest of your life?”

The NCAA is expected to vote on proposed legislation regarding name, image and likeness no later than the end of January, 2021. If approved, student-athletes could capitalize on endorsement deals, public appearances and social media.

“The timing was coincidental. My mission is not to get these kids endorsement deals. It is not to create Instagram influencers. That’s not the point for me.

“Every kid I work with, whether they are the ‘one-percenter’, if they are the kid that is going to go to the NFL or not, my job is to set them up with a plan to get that dream job out of school. That is the delineation for me. That is the difference for what my mission is and what the NIL discussions are about.”

While the landscape of how to potentially profit off of name, image and likeness is at least for now unchartered territory, Darlow says realistic expectations are the responsibility of each athlete.

“Just because you can benefit from your likeness does not mean that you will. You have to be realistic about that. You have to set those expectations to those kids. They all think they are going to play in the pros. They all think they are going to get endorsement deals.

“I can tell you from experience, having been a guy that was very much in the room for those conversations about who we are going to sign and who we are not going to sign, when it comes to my marketing budget, I am going to sign the same amount of people before this thing happened.”

Darlow says it is important for student-athletes to capitalize on opportunities that may present themselves while they are associated with notable institutions like the schools they play for.

“While the athletes have that celebrity, while they have that influence, we can teach them how to translate that into something outside of football.

“When you put that West Virginia jersey on, guess what, people are going to pick up your phone call. Whether they know that you are interested in banking or mathematics or science or whatever it may be, they are going to pick up the phone just because you have that jersey on. Start networking right now.”

Building brands is a process beyond just being active on social media. Darlow says it should be used as a platform to showcase diverse interests.

“If you want to use your Twitter account or your Instagram account for something, use it for building acumen and building equity in something outside of football. Show me that you have a passion outside that. Don’t show me what you ate for dinner. Don’t show me where you went out Friday night. Show me that you want to be a mathematician or that you have graphic design ideas. Use that right now.

“One of my rules is that consistency plus frequency equals recall. If you want somebody to remember what you have to say and remember what you stand for, say the one thing and say it over and over again. That’s how brands are built. That’s how messages are stuck into minds.”

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