- Reese’s has signed a dozen collegiate football players with the last name Reese to name, image and likeness (NIL) deals as part of a program tied to its fictional university, a press release announced.
- Athlete ambassadors for the Hershey brand receive a gold chain and pendant, tailored blazer in Reese’s signature orange hue, custom cufflinks — or “cup-links,” per the brand’s parlance — and a mini-fridge designed to fit into lockers and store confections for game day.
- The NIL tie-ups promote a limited-edition product carrying football-shaped versions of the candy. Reese’s is taking an unusual approach to NIL marketing that has become more common since restrictions on working with college athletes loosened last year.
Reese’s is enacting a full-tilt NIL blitz to build an association between its brand and college football. Rather than selecting a single star athlete to partner with, the candy marketer has picked 12, with the only common theme uniting them being the last name Reese.
The gimmicky approach is another indication that marketers have room to experiment when it comes to NIL ambassador programs that involve up-and-coming talent versus established names that might be controlling of their image. NIL changes could also attract categories not typically associated with college sports but that want to test the waters of consumer interest (while candy isn’t unheard of at tailgates, it probably isn’t as common as burgers or beer).
NIL restrictions around the NCAA were loosened last year, opening the floodgates to marketers along with uncertain terrain. Greener student-level athletes sometimes don’t have the structure associated with their professional counterparts, such as agents to broker sponsorship deals, for instance.
The new Team Reese line-up features players across regions, positions and seniority levels, from the University of Florida to Duke. The candy company is linking the sports push to Reese’s University, a fictional establishment with a Fighting Cuppies mascot inspired by its peanut butter cups that launched late last year.
Reese’s University, ostensibly based in Round Ridge, PA, has its own lore, including a 1923 founding date and faux-Latin "Peanutum en Chocolux” motto. While the concept is heavily content-driven, the school’s website also features an e-commerce shop for purchasing gear one would expect from a university store, like water bottles, sweats and sporting equipment. Enrolling involves sharing personal information like an email, while members receive access to Reese’s product news as well as messages from The Hershey Company and its affiliates.
Throughout the football season, Reese’s will boost its NIL partners through a dedicated Instagram account for the university and the players’ personal socials.