Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?! Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s ZOA Energy has launched its first NIL campaign. Branded as “The Rock’s Warriors,” the NIL program partnered with seven intercollegiate athletes carefully chosen by Johnson for their optimism, enthusiasm, and commitment to striving for something bigger.
“I personally selected these phenomenal individuals because of the energy, tenacity, and excitement they bring to the game,” Johnson said. The inaugural group of “The Rock’s Warriors” includes: Angel Reese (basketball, Louisiana State University), Hansel Enmanuel (basketball, Austin Peay State University), Brock Bowers (football, University of Georgia), Marvin Harrison Jr. (football, Ohio State University), Drake Maye (football, University of North Carolina), Kam Kinchens (football, University of Miami) and Amaya Gainer (softball, Florida A&M).
Through the partnership, The Rock’s Warriors will participate in an upcoming ZOA Energy campaign and create and share content across their social media channels. They will also engage in retail partnerships and philanthropic events nationally on behalf of ZOA Energy.
The opportunity to be part of a campaign greater than one individual attracted several of the college athletes involved in the partnership.
“I’m pumped to be a part of such a unique group of athletes, and who better than The Rock to bring us together for a one-of-a-kind opportunity,” LSU basketball’s Reese said.
“ZOA is all about being authentic and going beyond the individual to contribute to something bigger, which drew me in because I have always fought to beat people’s perceptions of me and to empower athletes like myself,” Austin Peay basketball’s Enmanuel said. “Collaborating with The Rock and the other Warriors is an amazing platform and program for me to help other athletes strive for greatness, too.”
ZOA Energy’s “The Rock’s Warriors” creatively shows how athlete-led companies can engage top influencers in the NIL space. Athletes like Reese and Maye, who rank in the top-10 of On3’s “NIL 100,” have many NIL opportunities to choose from. Thus, brands must offer something distinct to secure partnerships with them. While money certainly talks, the ability to engage with someone like Johnson–who has been successful as an athlete, actor and now entrepreneur–speaks louder. Other athlete-led companies should consider how they can authentically leverage the brain power and lived experiences of their leadership to facilitate meaningful NIL deals.
Athlete-owned and led corporations aren’t the only brands that should be following this NIL playbook. Rather, all companies engaging in the NIL space should consider how educational, mentoring and opportunity building factor into their NIL partnerships. Beyond merely offering college athletes cash or product for NIL deals, brands should examine how they can impart knowledge and opportunity to college athletes. For instance, tech companies can create networking opportunities with investors and potential co-founders for college athletes they partner with. Apparel brands can bring athletes behind-the-scenes into the design and merchandising processes. Food and beverage brands can bring athlete partners into the kitchen to understand the science behind recipe creation.
The beauty of NIL lies not only in allowing college athletes to access capital in the nearly $20 billion annual generating college sport industry, but also in expanding their knowledge and connections in business and brand building. To that end, “The Rock’s Warriors” is a winning NIL model.
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