In the off-season, college athletes are working hard to perfect their skills, improve their performance and generally be in the best shape possible for the upcoming season. Simultaneously, product developers are doing something similar with their products. Just like athletes on the court or the field, today’s retail markets are highly competitive. Driving companies to constantly strive to improve their products in order to win over customers. One way athletic and sporting goods brands are ensuring that they not only meet but exceed customers’ expectations is through the benefits of product testing with college athletes.

Before the implementation of the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policy, which allows college athletes to capitalize on their name, image, and likeness, product testing with college athletes included several challenges for brands. Prior to NIL, college athletes were not allowed to receive compensation for their athletic abilities or endorsements. However, these restrictions were lifted in the summer of 2021. This has allowed for a new potential for college athletes to monetize their personal brand. Without risking their eligibility to play. For brands, this means a once-challenging process of navigating “compensation” and even communication with college athletes has been simplified in ways that relate directly to product testing with college athletes.

In this article, we’ll explore why college athletes make great product testers. Also, how recent rules and regulations changes make them more accessible, and how their involvement enhances the overall athletic apparel, footwear and sporting goods market.

The Value of College Athletes as Product Testers

Consumer-driven product testing  has emerged as a driving force behind successful product development and product launches. Feedback from college athletes is no exception. Athletes possess a unique combination of physical skills, product knowledge, and relevant experience in their sport’s customer community. Thus, making them perfect candidates for providing invaluable insights and feedback on current and future products. Their input ensures that products are tailored to not only meet the specific needs of athletes, but also:

  1. Empowers brands to create cutting-edge equipment, gear and apparel that can endure the rigors of intense training and competition.
  2. Elevates overall customer experiences. While, making athletic gear more enjoyable and effective for not only top athletes but relevant sports enthusiasts alike.
  3. Enables brands to enhance athletes’ performance through advancements in materials, designs, and innovative technology. Pushing the possibilities within sports achievement even further!

By product testing with college athletes, manufacturers can gain insight into the rapidly evolving trends and preferences of the athletic market. College athletes represent a diverse range of both sports and consumers, all with distinct requirements and demands. Their participation in the product testing process ensures that new athletic gear aligns with the latest requirements in their respective sport and favorite activities. This product creation collaboration between athletes and manufacturers helps bridge the gap between market demands and product offerings. Ultimately, enhancing the market relevance of athletic apparel, footwear, and equipment. Yet, obtaining these valuable insights has been historically a challenge.

Football player jumping in air and celebrating with teamates

A History of Challenges with Product Testing with College Athletes prior to NIL

Engaging in product testing provides brands with an opportunity to connect with their intended audience. As well as, make substantial improvements to their products to better fit their needs.Before the emergence of NIL, athletic apparel, footwear and sporting goods brands faced difficulties in obtaining valuable product feedback from college athletes. This was attributed to some of the following factors:

1. Amateurs vs. Professionals: College athletes were considered amateurs, meaning they could not accept payment or benefits related to their athletic talents. Instead, they were only allowed to accept scholarships. This restriction made it difficult for brands to formally engage college athletes fom certain opportunities such as endorsements, or any form of promotional activity and more.

2. NCAA Eligibility Rules: The NCAA had strict eligibility rules. Accepting any kind of compensation could jeopardize an athlete’s eligibility to participate in college sports. As a result, college athletes were cautious about engaging in any activities that could potentially lead to the loss of their eligibility.

3. Risk of Sanctions: Brands also risked legal action or sanctions from the NCAA if they were discovered to provide benefits or compensation to college athletes, violating the organization’s rules.

With these factors considered, we can see why it was difficult for brands to establish connections with their target product tester audience. As well as, acquiring the essential feedback required to create exceptional products. Now testing with college athletes has opened doors for product developers.

Understanding NIL and How it Relates to Product Testing with College Athletes

The Division 1 Board of Directors made the decision on June 30, 2021, to approve the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policy. This groundbreaking policy grants NCAA D1, D2, and D3 student-athletes the opportunity to receive compensation for their NIL, starting from July 1, 2021. Remarkably, this compensation applies regardless of whether their respective state has enacted NIL legislation. It allows college student-athletes in states without an NIL law the freedom to receive compensation for their NIL activities. As long as they adhere to the guidelines that prohibit pay-for-play arrangements or financial incentives related to program recruitment or retention.

This new avenue enables college athletes to explore endorsement deals, partnerships, and unique opportunities, including product testing with athletic footwear, apparel and equipment brands. By embracing these product testing opportunities, college athletes can not only receive incentives but also contribute to the advancement of athletic gear and apparel they rely on to perform in their sports. Product testing with college athletes is a mutually beneficial scenario for both athletes and brands.

Benefits of Product Testing with College Athletes

Product testing stands as a mutual benefit for both college athletes and brands. The gear and clothing an athlete use play an immense role in their on-field and off-field performance, and athletes rely on their products to meet their standards. It’s crucial for brands to possess the insights necessary to design products that align with athletes’ performance expectations. This is precisely where product testing comes into play.

College athletes are consistently striving to enhance their skills, and searching for products that can elevate their overall performance and gameplay. Engaging in testing with college athletes provides them the opportunity to integrate the product into their routines and ensure it lives up to their standards.

Popular Inisghts From Athletes:

  1. Assessment of Product Durability: Athletes can illustrate the product’s performance over time through feedback logs. During a test, testers are able to bring the product into their everyday routine. By doing so, they can give insight as to how well a product withholds through wear & washes.
  2. Issue identification: Given the common wear and tear experienced by athletes, MESH01 enables testers to promptly notify brands of any critical product issues uncovered during testing. Additionally, testers can report on discomfort or other quality problems encountered throughout the testing period. This feedback ensures that countless others receive a quality product that meets or exceeds their expectations every time.
  3. Skill-level and age-group comparison: The testing process provides brands with a practical understanding and real-world comparison of product fit across diverse skill levels and age groups. MESH01 has streamlined the process of connecting with brands’ target audience and offers the advantage of placing their products directly into the hands of the most fitting and qualified individuals. The MESH01 community holds a wide variety of athletes of varying skill level & activities. Hyper-specific attributes can narrow down tester’s profiles. These attributes include demographics, lifestyle information, interests and activities, participation, occupation details, shopping preferences and more.
  4. Feedback on Design & Style:  Athletes are always looking for the next best product to improve their overall game and experience during play – with design and style yielding no exception. Testers provide honest evaluations on elements like design, style, and color, guiding brands on what resonates well and what might not.

For college athletes, a high-quality product is a necessity. Through product testing via MESH01, brands are able to consistently meet athletes’ expectations and continue to bring game-changing products to the market every time.

I’m a College Athlete! How Can I Help Change the World Of Athletic Apparel, Footwear, and Sporting Goods?

As an athlete, you may be navigating through the new rules and regulations brought by the NIL. However, being a member of the MESH01 product tester community can eliminate the hurdles of attempting to establish connections with brands. Instead, it directly connects you with many of the biggest and best brands in athletic apparel, footwear and sporting goods.

For years, the world’s most recognizable brands and retailers have trusted MESH01 with their product testing experience. And yes, they are actively looking to engage athletes like you! It’s an exciting opportunity when you’re selected to participate in a product test – let alone be invited to take part in your favorite brands product development process. Interested athletes can join this community here!

Volleyball player hitting ball over net while opposing team defends.

When selected to participate in a product test, you will be joining countless other athletes, from weekend warriors to professional athletes! You recieve opportunities based on your respective sport or favorite activities. In return, you are expected not only to test incredible products but also to provide firsthand feedback through surveys, activity logs, performance zones, uploads of images/videos, and more.

Great Athletes Need Great Products

The emergence of NIL legislation has breathed new life into the world of college athletics. By allowing college athletes to monetize their name, image, and likeness, athletes now can thrive in ways like never before. Such as contributing to the athletic market in new and exciting ways. As a tester, college athletes can now use their knowledge off the field and help pave the way for brands by offering their expertise. As products continue to become refined and improved-we can thank our vast community of athletes for their involvement.