- Denny's has signed four college football offensive linemen to Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals to create The All-Pancaker Team, per a press release. In football, a pancake block is one that leaves a defensive player flat on his back.
- The team is made up of University of Southern California's Jalen McKenzie, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff's Mark Evans II, Ohio State University's Nicholas Petit-Frere and Clemson's Tristan Leigh, who will participate in brand initiatives, star in a Signing Day video and post social content. They will be paid in buttermilk pancakes, per the release.
- As the NIL space heats up, Denny's is highlighting relatively unsung players with a pun about pancakes. New rules governing how college athletes can monetize their likeness went into effect on July 1, and several brands have been quick to embrace the rule change.
With its All-Pancaker Team, Denny's is taking a playful approach to NIL deals, creating an all-American collegiate team that puns off pancakes and pancake blocks. By focusing on offensive linemen, the brand is highlighting players that are relatively unsung and anonymous compared to those at skill positions like quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
The brand's deals — which are allegedly paid in the form of all-you-can-eat pancakes — could help Denny's connect with college football fans of major programs like those at Clemson and Ohio State through social content and other brand initiatives. The players will star in Signing Day videos, which typically show high school players signing with the college of their choice.
Plus, the team includes a player from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, adding a representative from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and helping the brand to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
"Given how much all college institutions contribute equally to the beautifully diverse fabric of this country and the activities we enjoy together, it was important to us to bring together a group of athletes representing both Power Five and HBCU schools," Denny's executive vice president and Chief Brand Officer John Dillon said in a press release.
Since the NCAA's interim NIL policy rolled out over the summer, several brands have taken advantage of the ability to make marketing and sponsorship deals with college athletes. Unilever's Degree was an early mover, committing more than $5 million over the next five years to its "Breaking Limits" program that will see it partner with college athletes. Similarly, Dr. Pepper signed Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei to star in a national ad campaign, and United Airlines signed Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux — a potential top pick in next year's NFL draft — to a marketing deal.