Elon volleyball setter and junior Ericka Link built her social media platform in 2019 and 2020 on TikTok where she gained 1.3 million followers; however, as brands began to reach out to her, Link had no choice but to turn down their offers, as college athletes were not allowed to monetize their names, images, and likeness (NIL). It was then that Link deleted her TikTok account in early 2021, and decided to take a step back from the spotlight.
“I wasn’t getting a lot of eye traffic to my name anymore, but that was fine with me,” Link said.
It wouldn’t be until June 1, 2021, when student-athletes could monetize their personal platforms after a legal change throughout the National College Athletic Association. Link said she was excited when this dream had become a reality.
“Being a walk on at Elon University is really expensive, so it was hard to say no so many times,” Link said. “It truly helped me, along with so many other people going through the exact same thing. It is really relieving to be able to get what we have been deserving of.”
Almost two years after deleting her account, a new door opened, and she struck her biggest partnership and teamed up with the World Wrestling Entertainment in 2022. She said the day she got the offer was a moment she would never forget.
“When they reached out to me I was awestruck that someone saw my value still without the biggest following that I had on TikTok,” Link said.
Over a year and a half later, Elon University Athletics and Opendorse, the NIL company, announced a partnership. On Feb. 27 the two teamed up to create the Forever Phoenix NIL Network. The deal will allow Elon athletes to elevate their personal NIL’s across social platforms.
Through partnering with Opendorse, Elon athletes are provided with new content tools that allow them to personalize and build their social platforms and brands. Athletes will receive education and training sessions from Meta, Overtime and Players' Tribune — three of the industry’s largest NIL companies. Link said as exciting as this partnership is for Elon, she hopes more athletes will take advantage of it.
“I really feel that people should be getting more excited, and reaching out to brands more even if it's a small or local business,” Link said. “I feel like since we have this and have been fighting for so long as NCAA athletes, we should utilize it a lot more.”