HomeBreaking BambooAsAm founded agency helps student athletes claim their worth

AsAm founded agency helps student athletes claim their worth

by Lia Reichmann, AsAmNews Contributor

For years college sports have made money for thousands of people but never for the athletes.

The college sports world was forever changed on July 1 when the NCAA allowed student-athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness (NIL). However, not every athlete is finding it easy to understand their place in the influencer market. That’s where GEN Agency steps in.

Founded in 2021, GEN Agency is an influencer marketing agency. Through its’ “Athletes Turned Creators” education and consulting program it works to help college athletes understand the new NIL economy and how to monetize their brand.

Founder and CEO Rachel Maeng Brown, a former Rutgers rower, always knew she wanted GEN Agency to get involved in NIL work. It was as part of her “roadmap” after witnessing what life was like as a college athlete.

“I’d seen a lot of things that had gone on being a student-athlete and seeing our faces plastered everywhere, on tickets, on the side of stadiums, on websites and as much as we were getting compensation through our scholarships, there were other things that were missing, college is expensive…we were like micro celebrities on campus and even the city,” Maeng Brown said.

Before starting her NIL education program, Maeng Brown wanted to learn from the people who do it the “best”— influencers.

“Influencer marketing was really taking this individual who had a smaller community, just like student-athletes have their small campus or even national campus, sometimes international platform, and really understanding how to build a brand, how to leverage it on social media for more followers and even how to leverage it to monetize it,” Maeng Brown noted.

The “Athletes Turned Creators” program features workshops ranging from topics such as “How to Build your Personal Brand” to “Setting Rates” to “Content Growth Strategies.” Although GEN Agency works specifically with student-athletes, they also work with college athletic program staff and coaches, as well as  those on the brand side, to “understand what the NIL marketplace is.”

GEN Agency offers free office hours twice a week to any student-athlete or anyone interested in NIL or the influencer market.

Maeng Brown describes their approach to NIL marketing as full service, but using a holistic approach. GEN Agency works to help brands and collectives understand that you can’t treat student-athletes the same way – “they’re their own new group.” They have different constraints like required study hall hours, school work, practice and more responsibilities than a non-athlete student may face,

As a former student-athlete, Maeng Brown understands those constraints well. She feels that her background helps her connect with the student-athletes she works with.

“I was a student-athlete, I am from [a] suburb town. So I have that growth story,” Maeng Brown added. “I am Asian American, I am young, I’m a female. There are so many things that I think resonate with a lot of the athletes that we work with.”

Hearing advice about what to do to monetize your NIL sounds different coming from someone who experienced the student-athlete life not too long ago than from a parent or a coach, according to Maeng Brown. 

“It’s just such a different experience coming from someone who may look like you, may sound like you, may have even played the same sport as you,” she added.

Koi Love, a forward on the University of Southern California’s women’s basketball team, met Maeng Brown a couple months ago. Since then, Brown has helped Love work on rebranding and finding what makes her marketable to a brand.

Love works with Maeng Brown personally, something Love says is a “unique opportunity” and one she is “super grateful” to be able to do. She agrees her history of being a former college athlete is helpful in working together. 

For her Brown is a role model and Love would’ve worked with her regardless of her being a fellow minority because she is a “great person.” However, she noted that any time a person in the minority can become the “majority” or be in a position that hasn’t happened before is great for the “people coming behind us.”

A few months ago, GEN Agency did a tour around historically Black universities teaching them about the types of contracts an athlete might see, how to work out a brand deal for their content and more. For Maeng Brown, this wasn’t just a goal for the company but for herself as well.

“I’m Korean, Filipina. I’m a young Asian American woman, all those things really are intersectionalities of my diversity and I think that that’s given me a very clear understanding that there are forces and things in people that will work against you being able to receive the education you need to be successful, or even receive the help and the platform that you need,” Maeng Brown said.

“So I really look at it as everyone should be able to get this type of education and so the Alabamas, the Dukes of the world, they have [general managers] for just NIL on their campus. But there are a lot of universities that don’t even have a dedicated staff member, or even so don’t even have any education plan for their student athletes for NIL or even financial literacy. And that’s really where I find that those are the type of people that need the level of education that we have and the ability that we have to be really mobile with it.”

Love said her biggest takeaway was learning when to post on social media and how often. Maeng Brown introduced her to an app that helps lay out “everything a brand would need to know” before working with her, including information about what audience she appeals to, how many people see her posts and more.

She has since seen an increase in engagement and the number of people that view her social media pages and has a partnership with Bumble, a dating app.

Student-athletes learning about NIL opportunities and monetizing their images is “important because it’s the future” according to Love. For Love, the focus isn’t only on a university’s brand anymore, but on student-athletes.

“It’s athletes being able to take control of their own brand and their own image in a way, so much bigger than just posting on Instagram, but literally marketing and profiting from certain brands and what they stand for,” Love added. “So I think it’s definitely important to be educated on different brands and different companies, but then just be educated on how to negotiate for yourself, who to work with, those types of things.”

Maeng Brown said GEN Agency’s end goal is to “democratize” the creator economy by helping educate and protect student-athletes and influencers so they are able to make “good choices” and that they have “all the information they need to be successful” and are being “paid correctly.”

She hopes going forward to see more Asian Americans and other diverse individuals getting involved in the NIL economy and sports in general.

“You’re never gonna see people like you until those people take that first step,” Maeng Brown added.

Being from New York as a competitive person, she hasn’t been intimidated by being an Asian American woman in sports. She has also found that being adopted into a White family and growing up in a predominantly White community gave her “a lot of confidence” that she could just be herself and it wasn’t something that would limit her.

“I found it a challenge that I wanted to take on and I still want to take on…and I hope that confidence and my ability to just keep going even when it gets hard, helps other Asian Americans and people who may not just see other people that look like them in the industry, keep pushing forward and just know that they can do it,” Maeng Brown said.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Please consider making a donation and following us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and TikTok. Information about interning, joining the staff or volunteering is hereWe are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.”


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