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'We're trying to help these kids grow': Mercer forms marketing partnership to build athlete brands

The partnership is with the former marketing director of Adidas to prepare athletes for life after graduation.

MACON, Ga. — Just about everyone has an opinion on whether or not college athletes should be able to make a profit while still in school. Mercer puts their own spin on that conversation this week. They've announced a partnership with marketing consultant and author Jeremy Darlow to build a marketing plan and brand for their athletes post graduation.

In 2020, branding is everything. Mercer took a step to improve the brands of their athletes by partnering with Darlow, the former marketing director for Adidas. The Bears will be a part of Darlow's Athlete Brand Development program.

"This course will provide them a road map to put together a personal marketing plan so that when they go out into the world, they're ready for the first interview," said Brian Gerrity, associate athletic director at Mercer.

Darlow has worked on the branding for high profile athletes like Aaron Rodgers and programs like the University of Alabama. His "Darlow Rules" online marketing plan is a step-by-step guide for athletes to capitalize on their likeness in as little as five minutes a week. The program will focus on topics like growing athletes' influence and targeting their audience.

"Athletes, especially DI athletes are so many time constraints between lifting and class and practice and games and travel," Gerrity said. "That was a big piece, we didn't want something that was going to take an enormous amount of time with our kids. This is something they'll get a lot out of without putting a ton of time in."

Mercer will be the first FCS and Southern Conference school to participate in the program. Few sports are more excited than the lacrosse team and coach Kyle Hannan about the impact it can have on recruiting.

"As a freshman, you can come into the Mercer lacrosse program and be a part of this program and this learning opportunity and position yourself over four years rather than all of a sudden you get your diploma. You walk across the stage and then life after college all of a sudden is in front of you," Hannan said.

Several former Mercer athletes have engaged in business ventures while in school through the University's resources in recent years. Mac Brydon, former basketball player, started Bear Food Gourmet Peanuts and former baseball player, Carter Varga, is CFO of the popular Z Beans Coffee Shop. Mercer Athletics said the addition of Darlow will only crank out more business ready athletes.

"At the end of the day, we're trying to help these kids grow, mature in something other than their sport. This is a very visible way for our coaches to say 'we have partnered with the leader nationally to help you grow as a person, not just as an athlete," Gerrity said.

Only a handful of other program have signed up for "The Darlow Rules" -  West Virginia's and Georgia Tech's football programs and the University of Miami Ohio's athletic department.

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