How a college track athlete gained 40,000 Instagram followers and an Under Armour deal by posting banana bread recipes

  • Makenzie Steele is a Clemson track athlete who posts running and food content.
  • She’s amassed around 60,000 followers across Instagram and TikTok.
  • Steele has scored NIL deals with companies like Under Armour and Lululemon.

Making NIL deals with big companies like Under Armour and Lululemon required Makenzie Steele to do two things: post consistently and include her business email in her Instagram bio.

“I don’t want to come across as arrogant, but I don’t reach out to a lot of companies,” Steele told Insider. “Ever since I put that in my bio… more opportunities have arisen because people simply email you.”

Through her Instagram and TikTok accounts, @goodfoodgoodrun, the 20-year-old Clemson University track and cross-country runner has secured nearly 20 brand deals. Steele began posting cooking and running content in the late summer of 2020, and her platform has grown to 42,000 Instagram followers and 23,000 TikTok followers.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Steele spent her senior year of high school online, giving her more time to focus on content. She started posting daily recipes and eventually incorporated Instagram reels, which gained traction.

Steele’s first partnership was with a UK-based protein bar company, and the majority of her other collaborations have been related to her food content.

Steele said she tries to make her content stand out, such as her baked oats series inspired by Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavors and smoothies that taste like different Crumbl Cookie flavors.

Her most popular recipe, for carrot, apple, and cinnamon banana bread, received over 950,000 views on Instagram reels when she first made it and over 1 million views when she reposted it about a year later.

Steele entered college with approximately 15,000 Instagram followers, which gradually increased until the banana bread video went viral for the second time a few months ago, boosting her follower count.

Steele emphasizes simple, realistic meals that even a busy athlete can prepare. She’s made one-pan Caprese baked pasta, snickerdoodle granola, mini apple pancake bites, and a variety of banana bread recipes.

“When someone first sees my account, they’re like, ‘it’s just banana bread and oats,'” Steele explained. “And I’m like, ‘I’m sorry!'” ‘We love carbs.'”

Steele explained that anyone can create a reel about banana bread, but once she began posting personal content about Clemson track meet days and her favorite Trader Joe’s items, she felt a stronger connection with her audience.

How Steele uses a brand partnership to promote her NIL deals and gain equity

Steele is an Under Armour affiliate, which means she receives free products and earns a commission when her personal links and codes drive sales rather than being paid a flat rate. She frequently promotes the company in Instagram stories, where followers can easily access the links and purchase the items she wears.

Steele also promotes her NIL deals through unboxing and shopping haul videos, which she did to promote a recent Clemson and Lululemon collaboration.

Steele stated that she has only earned a few thousand dollars from NIL deals thus far, but she has recently worked with her agent to increase her earnings.

She signed a deal with the sports metaverse and gaming platform LootMogul that gave her equity in the company, and she plans to sign a similar agreement with another company in the coming weeks that will give her a stake in the company in exchange for serving as an ambassador.

“Those two deals combined are projected to earn Makenzie more than six figures over the life of the deal,” her agent Christian Addison told Insider.

NIL has provided the marketing major with firsthand knowledge of running a small business. Steele stated that she recently discussed the formation of an LLC with her agent and then heard her professor mention it in class shortly after.

“It’s cool having experience knowledge rather than just book knowledge,” Steele said.

Steele is considering creating Good Food Good Run merchandise and publishing more limited-edition volumes of her online cookbook in the hopes of one day compiling them into a printed copy.

Her advice to other student-athletes interested in NIL is as follows:

“There’s an audience for you out there somewhere,” Steele said. “You just have to find it by posting.”

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