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I scored over 20 sponsorships as a student-athlete. Since graduating, I've worked full time helping other students make money from NIL.

Tiara White   

I scored over 20 sponsorships as a student-athlete. Since graduating, I've worked full time helping other students make money from NIL.
  • Lauren Hoselton scored over 20 NIL sponsorship deals as a student-athlete at Ole Miss.
  • She's now a VP at the Grove Collective and helps college athletes at her alma mater get NIL deals.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lauren Hoselton, a former track-and-field athlete from the University of Mississippi and the founder of Total NIL. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I am a former track-and-field athlete for the University of Mississippi. In 2021, when new name, image, and likeness rules were implemented for student-athletes, I knew brands wouldn't knock on my door to pay me to show up for a birthday party. Those opportunities usually go to star football and basketball players. So I told myself to get creative and use my entrepreneurial mindset to make money off NIL.

Ole Miss was amazing at helping athletes with opportunities, but NIL was so new that the school didn't really know how much it could do or what it could do. I secured my first NIL deal when our social-enhancement coordinator contacted students about an opportunity with Graduate Hotels. I think I was one of the few people at the school to apply. I got the deal and was paid for my work, including for hosting events like a coffee happy hour at one of the hotel's cafés and when people used my referral code.

From there, I continued to hustle and use platforms such as LinkedIn and the marketplace Opendorse to get NIL deals. I pitched myself to managers in my college town to secure as many brand deals as possible. That year, I secured over 20 sponsorships with brands such as the streaming platform Peacock and the restaurant chain Smoothie King.

NIL also made me think about social media differently. I used to use platforms like Instagram to post cute pictures or for fun. But NIL shifted my mindset to think like a content creator. I became very strategic about what I posted on social media. I tell everyone now, even if you feel silly, make the TikToks. The more engagement you have, the more money you can ask brands for.

Since graduating about two years ago, I've used my experience as a walk-on college athlete to help other student-athletes nationwide navigate brand and sponsorship deals. NIL opened doors for me to go into business for myself and helped me land a full-time job shortly after college.

Building a career in NIL after college

I'm now the vice president of marketing and athlete management at the Grove Collective, an NIL program independent of Ole Miss that raises money from donors and facilitates NIL deals for student-athletes at the university. In my role, I assist about 200 athletes with marketing, social media, and brand partnerships. On a normal day, I look over contracts and help athletes create content and negotiate with brands.

The Grove Collective has raised over $10 million and helped athletes secure deals with Delta Air Lines, the camouflage brand Realtree, and the private-jet-charter company Wheels Up.

After college, I didn't initially think I would work in NIL. I was interviewing for a job in medical sales when NIL opportunities started to come my way. Ole Miss asked me to talk to its incoming freshmen and transfers about the space and how I navigated it. From there, I created a brand called Lauren Hoselton Consulting and began speaking with student-athletes and coaches at other schools.

After I built my consulting business, the University of South Florida wanted to partner with me and I thought, "I have to turn this into something legit." With the help of an extremely successful mentor of mine, we created Total NIL. I still run this business, separate from my work at Grove.

My experience as a student-athlete has helped me do my job better. I know what it's like to be so busy that you can't work a full-time job. I also know what it's like to be injured and have a lot of things thrown your way.

I want to help student-athletes who face challenges like these. This money changes the lives of these kids. I helped one student-athlete pay for his family's health insurance. They'd never had it before. This is why I do what I do.

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