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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Mark Bechtel

College Athletes Cashed in on Food-Related NIL Deals in 2022

One of the most popular industries in the NIL space is food, which makes sense. College kids are notorious for trying to find budget-friendly grub, and NIL deals allow businesses to compensate athletes with free meals in exchange for promotion: Post a picture of the offensive line enjoying wings, and they’re on us.

Some deals go deeper, though. Arkansas golfer John Daly II inked a deal with Hooters, an establishment inexorably linked with his father. Alabama football player Kool-Aid McKinstry signed on with his eponymous fruit punch manufacturer. Kansas QB Jason Bean now endorses legume purveyor Serious Bean. (It doesn’t quite reach the level of Nebraska wideout Decoldest Crawford’s air conditioning deal or North Carolina forward Leaky Black’s partnership with a local plumber, but it’s still pretty good.)

Hendon’s NIL deal includes custom French’s mustard Nikes. 

Courtesy of French’s Mustard

Two of the most interesting deals, though, involve the same condiment: mustard. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker has teamed up with French’s, which became synonymous with the program last year when a bottle was thrown onto the field in protest of a call against Ole Miss. (Hendon’s deal includes custom shoes.) But the ultimate food-related NIL masterpiece comes from Texas running back Bijan Robinson, who is now pushing his own Dijon: Bijan Mustardson.

Beyond mustard, here's a list of some more of 2022’s most interesting food NIL deals. 

Kentucky QB Will Levis: Ale-8-One

It wasn’t until Will Levis moved to Kentucky that he was introduced to Ale-8, the state’s ginger- and citrus-flavored soft drink that is produced in the town of Winchester and sold locally. The terms of the deal were not released, but the two-year UK quarterback—who finished his career with a 17-7 record, 5,233 passing yards and 43 passing touchdowns—is currently ranked 57th in On3 college football rankings, with a On3 NIL Valuation of $464,000.

Arizona forward Maya Nnaji: Dunkin’ 

Arizona women’s basketball’s 6'4" freshman Maya Nnaji is one of 30 college athletes across 24 schools who are part of Dunkin’s latest campaign. A former five-star recruit, Nnaji was the highest-ranked recruit ever to sign with the Wildcats and this sweet deal marked her second NIL deal. 

Minnesota RB Mohamed Ibrahim: Gushers

Gophers rusher Ibrahim nearly stumbled into his latest NIL deal. During a 31-0 win over Rutgers on Oct. 29, the broadcast cameras caught Ibrahim eating his favorite snack on the sidelines. Less than three weeks later, Ibrahim signed an NIL with Gushers, a General Mills product, for an undisclosed amount. The sixth-year senior, who has a total social reach of about $19,500 followers, has an On3 NIL Valuation of $456,000, 

Rutgers center Cliff Omoruyi: 16 Handles

In October, the Scarlet Knights’ 6'11” standout inked a deal with  tri-state area frozen franchise 16 Handles for an undisclosed amount, marking the company’s first foray into the NIL landscape. With a total social reach of 25,000 followers, Omoruyi has a current On3 NIL Valuation of $132,000. He even developed his own signature “Big Cliff Sundae,” which features cookies and cream frozen yogurt topped with waffle bits and more.

Kansas QB Jason Bean: Serious Bean Co.

The Jayhawks’ senior backup quarterback announced his new NIL partnership with Serious Bean Co. in November, on the same day he led his team to a 37-16 victory over Oklahoma State by throwing for 203 yards and two touchdowns and also rushing for 93 yards and a score. Bean currently has an On3 NIL Valuation of $45,000, which ranks near the bottom of the list for college football’s top NIL earners.

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