DALLAS — Hundreds of college athletes, now allowed by the NCAA to profit from their own image and likeness, are getting their first taste of financial freedom on a Chicago-based fan experience website, which has proven successful for thousands of celebrities.
Recent Oregon transfer, and now Texas Tech quarterback, Tyler Shough is among the 110 college athletes who, since the rule change became effective July 1, have joined the stable of celebrity talent on Cameo.com. The website, which connects fans with their favorite celebrities and allows them to purchase personalized video messages, was founded in 2016. To date, it has more than 40,000 celebrities involved.
Cameo.com CEO Steven Galanis said in addition to the NCAA athletes who have already joined the site, another 130 are in the process of joining as well.
"It's such an elegant strategy to solve what's really been a long-standing problem," said Galanis, of the inability of college athletes, until now, to benefit financially from their new-found celebrity.
"It's a really exciting high-growth fun business to be running, and we think we are transforming the way talent and fans interact," said Galanis.
"We're seeing immediate reception," he said, of the more than 600 requests for NCAA athlete messages they've received so far this week.
"And supporters are looking to really put their money where their mouth is and support their favorite student athletes," he continued.
"Honestly, it's a great opportunity," Shough told WFAA. "And I've been doing everything I can to take it slow. Really just learn as much as I can."
Shough has already had multiple requests for personalized video messages to his fans at a fee of $40 each.
"I know there are a lot of opportunities for a lot student athletes out there to make quick money, and frankly, a lot more money than you're used to. But for me, just trying to find the right people, the right brands, the right businesses, that really fit what I'm trying to do," said Shough.
Some college athletes aren't just doing this for their own benefit. Texas Longhorns quarterback Casey Thompson announced on Cameo.com that he will send all proceeds to the No Kid Hungry campaign, a program working to combat child hunger.
"I'm very supportive of it," NFL agent Scott Casterline said. "I think if it's done the right way, everybody's going to benefit. And on this side, we're going to do it the right way."
As Cameo.com, now with more than 300 employees across the country, readies itself to add even more college athletes to it's list of celebrities, Galanis said the percentage compensation is the same for every participant on the site.
While comedian Ron White offers personalized messages for $200 and comedian Gilbert Gottfried offers his voice and image for $175 a pop (his offer of a free kidney is just a joke however), the celebrity or athlete gets 75% of their personal fee while Cameo.com retains 25%.