April 1, 2022

5 of the Best NIL Deals throughout March Madness

By: Andrew Stallings

Ah yes, the first week of April is upon us and sports fans are frothing for the NFL Draft, MLB baseball, and the playoff push for the NHL and NBA. Well hold the damn phone though, March Madness is not over yet! With one of the most popular sports weekends of the year upon us, let’s take a step back from the competition on the hardwood and focus on some of the more recognizable NIL partnerships that have unfolded throughout the last month or so, and what makes them so special.

Continental Tires plays the long game.

On March 26th, Continental Tires introduced a new series that takes some of the NCAA’s top stars for a drive around their hometowns for an intimate look at their roots.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that two of the three athletes featured in the first three episodes will be playing in the Final Four this weekend (Duke’s Trevor Keels and Villanova’s Collin Gillespie), but giving fans a destination narrative to follow in the long and boring weekdays where we have no basketball to watch is strategic while also finding the right place to tell a story that works well into their brand messaging.

Wings are punny.

Buffalo Wild Wings made a splash by signing Saint Peter’s Hero, Doug Edert, to a NIL deal at the peak of the shock of all basketball fans. However, competitor Wingstop kept it simple while also lifting up the women’s side of the game by partnering with 11 different NCAA Women’s Basketball Stars who play the “wing” position.

We love a good pun, we love supporting the women athletes, but they also are running free delivery and some great bundle promotions during this window as well.

Well done, Wingstop. Well. Done.

Adidas creates a world of their own.

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Ahead of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Adidas put the focus on inclusivity and equality with student-athletes at schools where they have existing relationships to empower opportunities for paid partnerships at different scales. This large undertaking will be launching in four phases over the next 12 months. The network will begin with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Power-5 conference schools in Fall 2022, with hopes to hit all of their school programs by April 2023.

Every single person dreams of an apparel deal. For Adidas to step up and build this out while also recognizing there is a lot of room to infiltrate shows promise for the universities, the athletes, and the brand for years to come. As always, let’s revisit this in 12 to 18 months to see the impact to date.

Influencers are cool, but Chin-fluencers are all the rage.

When Dollar Shave Club made the announcement that they were going to be the official razor of March Madness they had to make sure they found the best facial hair to compliment the product as such.

Insert Gonzaga star, Drew Timme.

I just wish that if Gonzaga went all the way, instead of screaming “I am going to Disney World!”, the Gonzaga star would shave it all off at center court.

Hey Dollar Shave Club, we are here for all your creative marketing needs. Just saying for next year.

Does Deja Kelly really like blooming onions?

I have no clue, but maybe I can check out the menu at my local Outback Restaurant and find the answer. 

Outback rolled out one of the more unique NIL programs to date which lets their customers choose NCAA Tournament star ambassadors (men and women from different universities across the country) to guide the restaurant goers on what to get by highlighting their favorite menu items.

As an extension of their already stout footprint in the NIL space with their TeamMATES program, the brand took a multi-layered approach, which also will include a consumer-driven sweepstakes that began on February 7th.

I will leave you with this: those that are able to execute multi-channel campaigns flawlessly while being forward-thinking on the evolution are rare breeds.

It takes a lot of work to execute programs at this scale with the amount of red tape, approvals, and negotiations that go into this.

We’re curious about your favorite NIL partnership to date. Drop us an email at Media@AtheloGroup.com and we will pick some of our favorites to feature and send some swag to!


  1. https://www.nrn.com/fast-casual/wingstop-announces-11-nil-partnerships-giving-women-spotlight-and-bringing-free-delivery
  2. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2022/03/27/2410567/0/en/adidas-Announces-an-Equitable-and-Inclusive-Name-Image-Likeness-Network-Open-to-50-000-Student-Athletes.html
  3. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dollar-shave-club-becomes-official-razor-of-march-madness-and-creates-the-worlds-first-chin-fluencer-301498743.html
  4. https://www.on3.com/news/outback-announces-nil-deal-with-multiple-college-basketball-stars-trevor-keels-lexi-gordon-marcus-bagley-jade-loville-caleb-love-deja-kelly-hunter-dickinson-naz-hillmon/
  5. https://www.thedrum.com/news/2022/02/16/outback-steakhouse-s-sane-strategy-march-madness-nil-partnerships-and-nfts

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