How Much NIL Money a College Athlete With Nearly 2M TikTok Followers Earns – Business Insider

Jon Seaton grabbed dinner at a Chick-Fil-A on the day he arrived in late June 2021 at Elon University for summer training. He left the fast-food restaurant with $7 to his name, expecting to receive free meals over the next few months at a school dining hall for student-athletes.
But the dining hall never opened, Seaton told Insider. And, because he was a walk-on — an athlete who does not receive financial aid from the school — he wasn’t eligible to receive a debit card worth more than $1,000 that was given to athletes on scholarship.
“I actually had no clue at that point where I was going to feed myself from,” Seaton said.
The defensive lineman said he went days without eating, living off snacks in his team’s weight room and the occasional meal from his teammates. He wouldn’t start earning money from the social-media internship he had lined up until after a few weeks on campus. And Seaton said he led a “silver-spoon-fed life” as a kid in the New Jersey suburbs and didn’t want to ask his parents for help.
He lost 30 pounds in one month, bringing his weight to 265 pounds.
But Seaton saw a light at the end of the tunnel: July 1, 2021, the day NCAA athletes were allowed to profit from their names, images, and likenesses.
Despite being a little-used player for a school in a Division I subdivision, he had more than 1 million followers on TikTok from what he describes as his “Big Boy” content directed at a plus-sized audience.
TikTok started as a “passion project” for Seaton when the pandemic lockdowns first hit, and he said he enjoyed the extra attention he received in school for having a social-media presence.
He connected with managers Pat and Tim Curran, founders of Curran Media Co., months before the new NIL rules were announced, and they planned to hit the ground running on July 1, 2021.
“I felt like Hussain Bolt on the blocks at the 100-meter sprint at the freaking Olympics,” Seaton said. “I was ready to go the second that thing kicked off.”
The endorsements have since not only allowed Seaton to eat regularly — he’s back up to 287 pounds for the 2022-23 season — but live independently of his parents and pay for his own tuition at Elon, which is worth more than $42,000 a year.
Seaton and his management team estimate his earnings at more than $250,000 over less than 18 months. Insider verified Seaton’s earnings and brand deals with documentation.
His earnings include endorsement deals with major brands like Meta, Amazon Prime, Atlantic Records, NERF, and Outback Steakhouse. He’s also sold merchandise through his brand Big Boy Council.
Curran Media Co. has charged brands up to $10,000 for a single video post from Seaton, with his follower count now up to 1.8 million on TikTok and 58,000 on Instagram.
Tim Curran told Insider he has avoided small deals for Seaton worth $25 to $50, which has pushed up the value of each sponsored post the athlete makes.
“You have to understand what your brand value is,” Tim Curran said. “Jon, leading up to NIL, probably would’ve done anything for $50, but you have to set a standard too.”
Seaton’s high-profile platform also gave him the opportunity in November to judge Dr. Pepper’s “Hail Mary for $23K” contest, a “Shark Tank”-like event where college students pitched their business ideas to a panel in the hopes of receiving funding. He judged alongside Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Charlotte Jones and actual “Shark Tank” judge and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban.
Seaton believes that NIL could help student-athletes like him, who aren’t pursuing careers as professional athletes, become business leaders.
“It’s going to be what inspires the next wave of great entrepreneurs,” Seaton said. “Somebody’s going to be absolutely perfect in what they do with their name, image, and likeness, and they’re going to be a billionaire before they leave school. At some point, it’s going to happen.”
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