Name, Image and Likeness has truly changed the game for Carolina athletics. Men’s basketball looks like a preseason #1 team in part because all of the players that considered the NBA Draft can make NIL money while staying on campus. Former star quarterback Sam Howell famously repped Bojangles fried chicken, among other deals.
Perhaps most impressive though is the endorsement portfolio, and growing national profile, or rising junior guard Deja Kelly. Kelly, who led the UNC women’s basketball team in points and assists last season, has been known in basketball circles since arriving in Chapel Hill as a McDonald’s All-American and Gatorade Player of the Year for Texas. After her stellar sophomore season, she was First-Team All-ACC, and has lifted both the team’s, and her own profile with heroics like this:
Deja Kelly CLUTCH @dejakelly25 @uncwbb wins it in a thriller and remains undefeated! pic.twitter.com/2iPs5pV0jE— ACC Network (@accnetwork) December 19, 2021
Her season ended with a tough loss to eventual national champion South Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen, but Kelly was magnificent in defeat, scoring 23 points. UNC’s eight-point loss was the closest margin the Gamecocks had in the NCAA Tournament. There’s promise in Deja Kelly’s game that next year could be a special season for Courtney Banghart’s crew.
This will only help grow Deja Kelly’s burgeoning empire. Hubert Davis once said that winning brings the awards and rewards. Kelly has been awarded with ACC honors. She will surely be in line for conference and national All-America teams in her junior season. This attention continues to build Kelly’s brand, and with it, monetary compensation.
Deja Kelly has over 9K followers on Twitter where she muses on typical college student and basketball specific items of the day. But she has over 166K followers on Instagram, and that’s where the real money is.
Deja is represented by WME Agency, home of such brand names as Serena Williams, Ben Affleck, and Bruno Mars. She is attached to national-level endorsement projects such as Dunkin’, Outback Steakhouse, Postmates, Beats by Dre, and Forever 21. The Forever 21 deal was done in conjunction with Sports Illustrated and has released a limited edition swim collection, which is prominently featured on Kelly’s Instagram feed.
North Carolina should be a legitimate national title contender in Courtney Banghart’s fourth season in Chapel Hill. The added eyeballs on national broadcasts will only inflate Deja Kelly’s endorsement value, and if last season is any indication, signing deals isn’t distracting her from her basketball responsibilities. Expect to see Deja’s face all over TV and social media, endorsing products and winning games.