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NIL Marketing for College Athletes

AMA's Zoom meeting with Sean Ellenby!

This week, AMA was delighted to be joined by Sean Ellenby, the manager of Marketing, Communications, and NIL at Campus Ink! Streaming all the way from Chicago, Sean joined AMA members in an exciting Zoom meeting where he discussed NIL marketing (Name, Image, and Likeness) in the world of college sports. We are also happy to report that this event was in collaboration with UMD’s very own Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity and the AMA chapter at Shady Grove!

This event with Sean Ellenby was especially inspiring because he is an established alumni from the University of Maryland. Having graduated in 2012, Sean has spent the last 10+ years developing, enhancing, and protecting brands for both organizations and individuals, particularly for college athletes involved in NIL. In fact, he has worked in Media Relations and Communications with UMD’s men's basketball, lacrosse, and football teams!

During his time as Assistant AD for Maryland’s sports teams, Sean worked with athletes on a daily basis and helped them build their brand. Sean wanted athletes to have a fulfilling college experience from a marketing and communications standpoint, making NIL vital. The NIL marketing bandwagon is relatively new and rapidly growing, considering how athletes were not allowed to be compensated for their NIL until July of 2021. Now, the NIL market is opening up a plethora of opportunities for college athletes to monetize themselves.

Sean Ellenby, Manager of Marketing, Communications, and NIL at Campus Ink

Since moving from Maryland to Chicago, Sean has continued to help college athletes build their brand through the apparel company Campus Ink. If you have a passion for college sports and have a fair share of school spirit, chances are you are familiar with this company. As an NIL affiliate store, Campus Ink is a custom merchandise platform for college students and athletes. One of the cool things about this company is that by using social media advertising, they have developed an entire ecosystem and community of fans who support their favorite athletes!

With NIL, collegiate athletes can get the compensation they deserve. Athletes get top notch commissions from jerseys, sweatshirts, and t-shirts that Campus Ink produces with their name on it. What college sports fan wouldn’t want to buy apparel from their favorite athlete? What athlete doesn’t want to get a cut of these profits? It’s a win-win for both sides. At Campus Ink, Sean focuses on providing a wide variety of college student-athletes the opportunities to earn money from NIL deals.

Because college sports is such a popular industry, Campus Ink was quick to jump on the opportunity of NIL. Since their founding, they have grown from having licenses at just one school with 15 athletes to currently having licenses at 25 schools nationwide with thousands of athletes involved, not to mention the million dollar investments that they are now entering. According to Sean, the athletes themselves are actually the best marketers: they create the emotional bonds with their fans that is necessary for companies like Campus Ink to make sales. However, there is one thing that sets Campus Ink apart from many of their competitors. Sean and his team use NIL to support the brands of all athletes, no matter their gender or how popular their sport is. While other companies solely focus on the top 1% of athletes, Campus Ink offers apparel across all sports and also gives higher commission rates for their athletes.

AMA was beyond excited to hear from such an established UMD alumni, and members were quick to ask Sean about his exciting career. One AMA member asked Sean how Campus Ink uses NIL to generate awareness for a particular athlete. Sean admitted that basketball and football players may have an unfair advantage because they are more popular compared to other sports. However, he also noted that players from typical non-revenue sports (for example, rowing or softball) often get more public success by building their following on social media. Campus Ink can actually help with this because they are currently partnering with Meta to develop shoppable Instagram Reels where athletes can sell their apparel direct-to-consumer. Sean also noted that Campus Ink generates awareness for athletes by sending emails to customers after their favorite team or player had a great game. This capitalizes on the emotion of happiness and gets people to buy merchandise right away, as Sean explained.

Another AMA member was curious about what Sean was involved in as a college student to get the NIL opportunities that he did. Here was Sean’s advice: Every athletics web page has a staff directory. You can look for internships or email people in your areas of interest, so don't be afraid to reach out! It’s important to explore your passions and work your way up.

If you are a young and enthusiastic person that is passionate about sports and marketing, the NIL market is calling your name. In fact, undergraduate students and recent graduates are valuable for these jobs because they know how to cater to the average college consumer. Because the new NIL space is competitive, companies are rapidly growing. According to Sean, Campus Ink’s growth has actually caused them to hire more staff members, so be on the lookout!

Be sure to check out for more information. Thank you so much to Sean Ellenby for visiting AMA and informing our members about the incredible world of NIL marketing!

- Megan Carey


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