Mizzou Athletics, Missouri School of Journalism partner on innovative branding program

Tigers help Tigers: Mizzou student-athletes are exploring and expanding their brand potential and NIL opportunities thanks to help from their peers in the School of Journalism.

Euphenie Andre

Jan. 11, 2024

The name, image and likeness (NIL) marketplace has been a big topic recently. Last semester, 18 University of Missouri student-athletes and 37 Missouri School of Journalism students took part in a pilot program to combine their areas of expertise — ultimately building brands, securing NIL deals and providing hands-on learning in the world of strategic communication.

One pairing included All-American University of Missouri track and field student-athlete Euphenie Andre, and journalism and honors student Abigail Klapatauskas.

"This is such a marvelous experience," said Andre, a senior triple jump and long jump specialist who’s also a journalism major. "We have one of the best journalism schools in the country and this just makes sense to do. I'm so glad I was able to be an experiment guinea pig for it because it was really, truly amazing."

Abigail Klapatauskas

Here's how the process worked: Once paired together, journalism students conducted interviews with the student-athletes to learn more about their interests, their passions and their personalities. From there, they audited the student-athletes' social media platforms: How much content are they producing? What kind of content appears on their platforms? How frequently are they posting? How many followers do they have?

The journalism students then presented their student-athletes with a social media plan playbook packed with guidance on the content they should post and the best times to post their content — all to build their audience and further engage more followers. The journalism students then developed a business pitch with a list of potential companies student-athletes should contact for NIL partnerships.

After Andre and Klapatauskas first met, they focused on repositioning Andre's Instagram account so that it speaks more directly to the women Andre said she wants to empower.

Based off that initial interview, Klapatauskas designed a mood board to reflect Andre's persona and her ambitions with this project.

"Within 10 minutes of taking notes during our interview, I'm pretty sure I wrote down the word 'confidence' like 17 times — and I had it underlined," Klapatauskas said. "Her bold, unapologetic self was just so striking to me."

"Going into this, I wanted to know how I could step up my engagement because (track and field) is an Olympic sport," Andre said. "We don't get as much coverage as the big power sports, so I wanted to try to connect with Tiger fans as much as possible but also expand my brand as a track athlete here. I expressed that with Abigail, and she did such a phenomenal job of putting my visuals into real life. … Off one discussion that we had, she took everything that I'm interested in and made a beautiful mood board."

As for Andre's social media, Klapatauskas wanted her to focus on producing more targeted Instagram reels. Andre followed through with new reels while competing at last month's Pan-American Games in Chile — and her Instagram analytics soon reflected her strategic choices. From the start of the project to late November, Andre's Instagram followers increased by 90, her number of accounts engaged increased by 200% and the number of accounts she reached increased by 69%. Also, the percentage of people reached by her content who are women increased from 30% to 40%. As a result of the enhanced engagement, Andre landed an NIL contract with a hair care product.

"Euphenie is a super valuable asset for all of these brands," Klapatauskas said, "and even though she's not as visible as some of the other athletes, the lack of visibility can give her more leverage because there's more potential there."

Under the watch of Brandon Lee, Mizzou's assistant athletics director for NIL, Athletics has also partnered with the School of Law and MU's Office for Financial Success to offer resources for student-athletes related to their NIL experience, creating a mutually beneficial campus synergy that reflects Mizzou's innovative embrace of NIL.

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