Back in July, the NCAA granted college athletes the opportunity to make money by using their “name, image and likeness” (NIL).
This means getting paid to sign autographs, make appearances, or promote products and services, among other things.
Importantly, it keeps college sports from turning into pay-for-play schemes, while also providing clarity to student-athletes and their families.
These NIL opportunities are beginning to materialize, and we now have what appears to be the first mortgage-related deal.
The nation’s second largest mortgage lender, United Wholesale Mortgage, is offering $500 per month to Michigan State University (MSU) athletes.
Because UWM is a wholesale mortgage lender, these athletes will essentially be promoting the mortgage broker model.
MSU Athletes Can Earn $500 Per Month for the 2021-2022 Season
This new partnership involves MSU men’s basketball and football players, of which there are 133 in total.
Each one will have the opportunity to earn $500 per month for the 2021-2022 season, which will amount to $6,000 per player.
In terms of how they’ll market UWM, it’ll apparently be via social media channels as opposed to a clothing partnership.
Per Crain’s Detroit Business, the MSU players won’t “be required to wear UWM logos on their jerseys.”
This differs from UWM’s earlier deal with the Detroit Pistons, in which their logo will feature on the left front strap of official team jerseys for the 2021-22 NBA season.
So expect all your favorite MSU student-athletes to pitch mortgage brokers and specifically UWM on Instagram and other social media platforms.
Rocket Mortgage Is the Official Mortgage Provider of MSU Athletics
What makes this story a little more interesting is the fact that UWM isn’t even the “official mortgage provider” of MSU.
That title goes to crosstown rival Rocket Mortgage, which recently inked a new five-year deal to be the presenting sponsor of the men’s basketball team.
If you visit the Breslin Center for a hoops game, you’ll see signage that reads “MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage.”
There will also be “considerable branding” throughout the Breslin Center and Spartan Stadium for Rocket Mortgage.
Notably, the Rocket Mortgage logo will be “prominently displayed” on MSU football coach Mel Tucker’s headset, along with the MSU men’s and women’s basketball team benches and clipboards.
So while the players may be pitching UWM, they’ll have to compete with the massive Rocket brand campaign at the same time.
Rocket Mortgage and UWM Founders Are Both Michigan State Alum
As to why MSU appears to be the crown jewel to both the #1 and #2 mortgage company in the United States, it has a little to do with history.
It just so happens to be the alma mater of Rocket Mortgage founder Dan Gilbert, along with current UWM president and CEO Mat Ishbia.
Ishbia is actually the founder’s son, and joined UWM as its 12th team member after briefly coaching the MSU basketball team alongside Tom Izzo.
Before that, Ishbia also won a national championship with the Spartans basketball team back in 2000.
Both Rocket Mortgage and UWM have also been very active in metro Detroit and nearby, contributing to revitalization efforts in the state.
So it appears this is a sort of battle between the companies, which constantly exchange jabs in somewhat subtle, yet not so subtle ways.
This latest exchange makes MSU the venue for a proxy war between retail mortgage lending and wholesale lending, the latter fueled by mortgage brokers.
For the record, Rocket Mortgage also announced that through new and expanded multi-year deals, it now has partnerships with 25 of the “most influential and prestigious athletic programs” in the nation.
That list includes four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Grambling State, Howard, Jackson State, and Southern University.
Perhaps the Rocket/UWM rivalry is better than college sports…