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Meet the Shack-Letes! Our Seafood Franchise Launches New Collegiate Athlete Sponsorship Program

The landscape of college sports saw a dramatic change in 2021 with the NCAA’s removal of the prohibition on players receiving monetary benefits while participating in college sports. Previously, a college athlete could not profit from the use of his or her name, image, and likeness (NIL) through sponsorships. This ban has been lifted, allowing student-athletes to be paid by corporate sponsors. Some may say this shift was long overdue.

What this rule change presents is a huge opportunity for college athletes, and it also opens the door for businesses to benefit from the newly gained sponsorship possibilities. Our seafood franchise is going all-in on this new frontier of college athletics with Shuckin’ Shack Athletics! We’ve teamed up with Icon Source to create a sponsorship program that aims to bring awareness to deserving local collegiate athletes who embody the Shuckin’ Shack spirit. In turn, the athletes will provide additional exposure as brand influencers for Shuckin’ Shack’s franchise locations.

Let’s get a bit more in-depth here and look at the types of Shack-letes who will be targeted, how the program will operate, and why it’s such a fantastic opportunity for young athletes and Shuckin’ Shack seafood Franchise Owners alike.

Seafood franchise launches athletic sponsorship program

Who are the Shack-Letes?

With the NCAA rule change, the star athletes from well-known men’s football and basketball programs will surely be receiving their share of sponsorship deals from corporations. Shuckin’ Shack’s approach will be much different.

With all of the attention already on the big-time stars, there’s an opportunity to really help out the lesser-known college athletes. These underdogs may not get all the publicity, but they are often fan-favorites and hometown heroes. Whether they are starters on their team or provide vocal support from the bench, Shuckin’ Shack wants them as their Shack-letes.

The Shack-letes won’t necessarily be from the most commercialized sports, either. For example, our inaugural Shacklete,  Nicole Webb, is a senior from the NC State gymnastics team, while the other two original Shack-letes play golf and women’s soccer, respectively. These are the types of student-athletes who need help from corporate sponsorship, more so than the star quarterback from Alabama who is almost certainly fielding sponsorship calls on a weekly basis. 

Darren Keeler, Shuckin’ Shack’s VP of Marketing and Creative, underlined the importance of choosing the right type of athlete to go with the spirit of our seafood franchise, saying, “Really, we want to sponsor the underdogs of collegiate athletes. And that goes with our character and our culture. You know, where the authentic coastal vibe, the laid back atmosphere that we are. We want the underdogs, who are the heart of the team.

What Role Does the Shack-Lete Play?

First and foremost, when an athlete becomes a Shack-lete, word of mouth will naturally spread. The athlete will surely mention their relationship with the Shuckin’ Shack seafood franchise around campus, raising awareness of the brand.

Aside from this organic promotion, each Shack-lete will make one social media post each quarter centered around their sponsorship with Shuckin’ Shack. This social media post could be in a variety of formats, and some can get pretty creative. For example, UNC golfer and Shack-lete Peter Fountain will go out on the golf course and tee up an oyster next to a golf ball emblazoned with Shuckin’ Shack’s logo. This image will be shared across his social media, which will put a lot of eyes on our seafood franchise brand.

In addition to the quarterly social media post, each Shack-lete will make one in-person appearance at a local Shuckin’ Shack restaurant for a grand opening, anniversary, or another type of special, high-profile event. This appearance will be advertised and draw additional attention to the Shuckin’ Shack location and show the local community how its athlete is being sponsored. This commitment is why the first Shack-letes have been selected from colleges that fall within a 20-mile radius of a Shuckin’ Shack location. Student-athletes are extremely busy and it doesn’t make sense to force them to travel great distances with so much already on their plate. 

The Shuckin’ Shack corporate crew is planning an upcoming oyster roast in Wilmington to kick things off, with all the chosen Shack-letes in attendance. Photos and videos will introduce the world to the first group of Shack-letes at the beginning of the year.

How Will Future Shack-Letes be Chosen?

Going forward, Franchise Owners will be able to nominate Shack-letes from colleges near their Shuckin’ Shack location. Being part of the community, these franchisees have a feel for what is going on in the local community and which athletes are good candidates for sponsorship. It is also a natural decision to allow franchise owners to nominate Shack-letes due to the in-person appearance requirement.

In fact, the most recent Shack-lete is a women’s soccer player who was introduced by a couple of Franchise Owners in Greenville, SC. This development broke, in fact, during Darren Keeler’s interview when he was asked if Franchise Owners could nominate Shack-letes.  “Funny you asked that because as we were speaking, I just checked our dashboard and we have a new Shacklete- her name is Aaliyah and she plays women’s soccer, and she was actually brought to our attention by Margaret and Don [Marcum], our Greenville and Easley Franchise Owners. She actually is a server during the summer at our Easley Shuckin’ Shack.”

It is this type of student-athlete that will benefit most from the program, so it’s a great opportunity for Franchise Owners to use their knowledge of their community to help build a powerful and inspiring roster of Shack-letes.

Shuckin' Shack seafood restaurant franchise

The Future is Promising

The Shuckin’ Shack Athletics program will be a great opportunity for our seafood franchise to help under-promoted college athletes. Franchise Owners will also benefit from the additional publicity within their local community. Everyone loves an underdog, especially when they come from your hometown, so the stir each new Shack-lete creates will be noticeable. More importantly, these hard-working student-athletes will gain the type of sponsorship that most franchise companies reserve for the mega-stars.

The plan currently is to have upward of ten Shack-letes signed by Summer 2022. The first three are already on board, with some additional athletes being pursued. By the end of the next year, the goal is to have at least one Shack-lete in every franchise location. This can only be made possible with the buy-in and support of the Franchise Owners in helping to identify the perfect candidates from their local colleges.

Have you always dreamed of owning a local sports bar with a hometown feel and something different to offer your community? Shuckin’ Shack gives our seafood Franchise Owners the opportunity to own three fun and lucrative businesses in one: a local watering hole that is a perfect place to kick back and watch the big game; an East Coast-style beach party with a laid-back atmosphere; and a restaurant with unique and delicious menu offerings featuring sustainably sourced seafood at an affordable price. Check out our website to learn more about franchising with Shuckin’ Shack.