UK Athletics Affirms Commitment to Student-Athletes Through The Kentucky Road
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky Athletics Department has intensified its commitment to providing best-in-class experiences and opportunities for student-athletes through The Kentucky Road, which describes the incomparable developmental experience provided for student-athletes during their time as Wildcats.
Now anticipating coming legislation allowing benefits from name, image and likeness, Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart is redoubling his efforts to put student athletes first. UK Athletics is building upon its college-sports leading suite of benefits featuring opportunities to enhance each student-athlete’s personal brand.
Benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Providing industry-leading support for leveraging individual social media presence through education, opportunity and data-backed insights.
- Extended scholarships until a bachelor’s degree is achieved.
- Financial education.
The Kentucky Road enhanced suite of benefits specifically for UK student-athletes will be curated by bringing together resources available through the University of Kentucky’s world-class academic and student-development professionals alongside the best external vendors.
Kentucky athletics has a proven track record of expanding student-athlete financial opportunities after their playing days at UK, whether through helping develop athletes to excel in the world’s best professional sports leagues, post-eligibility scholarship and networking opportunities, job placement programs and lucrative touring opportunities where Kentucky alumni interact with the best fans in college sports: the Big Blue Nation.
“We believe steadfastly in the transformative power of the college athletics experience,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “We also believe it is our responsibility to tailor that experience to meet the needs of young people in order to empower them to achieve their dreams. By taking The Kentucky Road for four years, our student-athletes will be given the tools and experiences they need to prepare for the 40 years to follow.”
The Kentucky Road program will continue to position student-athletes for personal and professional growth outside of the classroom and athletics facilities.
UK will build on existing innovations such as prioritizing first-access delivery of compelling media content to student-athletes directly to their smartphones. UK will also continue improving hands-on education geared toward maximizing personal branding leverage in addition to business and financial literacy programs.
“I’ve been fortunate that UK has been open with me since I first arrived on campus about enhancing my experience and providing me with the necessary content and education to grow my brand,” two-time Southeastern Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Year Rhyne Howard said. “On top of media and brand training sessions, we receive digital content constantly before and after games for us to share. They have also developed and sought my input in building and maintaining RhyneHoward.com and the #CrownHer campaign to increase my exposure.
“Our program also has its own creative director and she’s given me feedback on some logo work and other branding assets I have worked on as a digital media and design major. I’m excited to see how we build even more opportunities this upcoming year through The Kentucky Road.”
Benefits for Current Student- Athletes
Brand Protection, Enhancement, and Engagement
Kentucky has been an industry leader in partnerships with content distribution platforms INFLCR and OpenDorse, each of which has been instrumental in providing student-athletes, coaches, staff and influential alumni direct access to photos and videos. UK has also cultivated relationships with social media platform partners such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, all of which provide UK student-athletes with access to industry innovations and insights.
For years now, Kentucky’s Brand and Content division has adopted a “student-athletes first” strategy that prioritizes delivering content to the University’s best messengers: the student-athletes, and then amplifying their voices through department and team accounts.
“I think it was very important to have pictures and videos sent to your phone right after games and it was very convenient for us to post more and build our brands,” Tyler Herro, now with the NBA’s Miami Heat, said of UK Athletics’ partnership with INFLCR..
Kentucky student-athletes benefit from unparalleled opportunities that go along with competing on one of the biggest stages in college athletics. Wildcats have added hundreds of millions of followers on personal social media accounts. In 2020, Kentucky athletics social channels generated more than 1 billion impressions, while team and individual accounts prompted millions of engagements.
“For people that only see us with a facemask on and shoulder pads, there’s more to that. There’s more to that when we take that off, when we’re at our house, we’re out doing what we like to do,” Kentucky football alumnus Kash Daniel said. “Being more than an athlete and getting that out to people to let them see that ‘Hey, he’s not just a football player,’ you know that really means a lot to me.”
UK is well-positioned to provide student-athletes with enhanced support to benefit even more from their personal brands through data-backed insights and strategic thinking.
“Kentucky athletics staff and partnerships with platforms like INFLCR helped my social media a lot,” said PJ Washington, now a star forward on the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. “Content was just ready for me and I can send that to whoever I want, post them wherever I want, and say whatever I want so it was definitely a helpful tool.”
In 2019, Kentucky partnered with Empower3d and Michael Haddix to design a multi-level curriculum to prepare student-athletes for future aspirations ranging from playing professional sports to entering the career workforce. The first such program in the country, The Kentucky Road financial education initiative’s innovative programming is designed to allow students to understand finances through gamification, real-world scenarios, and competition. In addition to educating Wildcats on the basics of personal finance, participants learned how to start effectively networking with the invaluable relationships presented to them at Kentucky and how to better prepare for their next stage in life using the available tools to their advantage.
“During my time at Kentucky we had access to unparalleled resources,” All-America and two-time SEC Volleyball Player of the Year Leah Edmond said. “Whether it was academic, financial education, media content or just the access to relationship-building assets across a host of fields, The Kentucky Road was truly transformational for my career on and off the court.”
Benefits for Former Student-Athletes
“The Kentucky Road” is UK’s holistic approach to delivering on its promise of a world-class student-athlete experience. As part of this experience, student-athletes who leave the university in good standing will receive a scholarship in the amount of their athletics scholarship for tuition and fees until they have earned a UK bachelor’s degree.
As the number of student-athletes leaving UK for opportunities in professional athletics increases, UK Athletics is prepared to meet the academic needs of these students after their sports careers are finished.
The online home of The Kentucky Road is TheKentuckyRoad.com, a first-of-its-kind digital platform that inspires prospective student-athletes to visualize their future at UK. That future includes a set of opportunities that will challenge them to grow into leaders prepared for a lifetime of success, both during and after college. The Kentucky Road digital platform illustrates that through story-driven multimedia content and an interactive roadmap experience.