By Sean Ellenby, NIL Marketing & Communications
Bailey Dowling was out of position.
For the first time in her softball career, she had been sidelined due to a major injury.
Just 25 games into her collegiate career, the Alabama softball star and three-time Illinois High School Gatorade Player of the Year had torn her ACL, MCL and meniscus.
As a result, she had to embrace a new position, cheering from the bench as she watched her Crimson Tide teammates advance to the College World Series before ultimately falling one game short of the championship series.
Discovering Name, Image and Likeness
Along the way she learned patience, goal-setting and most importantly, how to be a great teammate.
But as the softball season came to a close, a new door opened for Dowling as she came across the official introduction of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) last summer.
Working with her mom, Nicki, Dowling instinctively focused on potentially serving as a sponsor for products that directly related to her life experiences.
Deep in her own personal rehabilitation, that meant serving as an ambassador for recovery products, like the Firefly Recovery Device.
“I really went for things on the recovery side like recovery sleeves that would help my knee,” Dowling said. “I actually got in contact with Gatorade because I was a Gatorade Player of the Year in high school and tried to work that angle. It was what I was going through at the time, so it was very personal to me.”
It was the sort of forward thinking that takes years for prospective talent (or influencers) to understand: the closer connection talent has to a product, leads to talent’s genuine support of the product, which leads to buy-in from the audience, which of course leads to increased sales and marketability.
Soon after, Dowling and her Mom discovered Campus Ink.
In reality, it was a perfect match. Dowling had become a softball legend in her hometown of St. Joseph, Ill., less than 15 minutes away from Campus Ink headquarters in Urbana.
“Campus Ink was an easy choice for us,” said Dowling, who was the first female athlete to sign with Campus Ink. “My Mom was a big help laying out all of my options and it just made sense with the company being only 15 minutes away from our house.”
Building a Brand
Dowling was clear about the direction she wanted to go as she developed her brand, focusing both on her faith as well as her longtime motto: “Be Fearless.”
The motto was one of many inspirational words and phrases she received from her mother on bracelets and necklaces as she was growing up.
When she got hurt last season, “Be Fearless” took on extended meaning.
“When I was injured, Be Fearless really became true to me and I owned that statement,” Dowling said. “Getting hurt while playing the game you love, you really do have to Be Fearless from that standpoint. I just felt like it really became true at that point and I wanted to use it.”
As a result, her first-ever t-shirt drop came with a simple message across the chest: “Be Fearless.”
The merch drop proved to be one of Campus Ink’s best sellers. It was evident both Dowling’s hometown and Alabama communities supported her, but it was also clear that her personal message resonated to a larger audience.
Now, Dowling is in the midst of another incredible Alabama softball season. The Tide is ranked second in the country and Dowling has proven to be one of the most clutch hitters Bailey, leading the team with 12 two-out RBIs and hitting 15-for-32 (.469) in such situations.
She’s also been joined at Campus Ink by her teammate and Illinois native, Ashley Prange, who plays third base for the Tide.
Dowling is actively working on her next merch drop, so stay tuned for exciting things to come!