Today, Gatorade signed a promotional deal with Shedeur Sanders, a football player at Jackson State University (JSU), located in Jackson, Mississippi. He is the first HBCU athlete to sign with the sports drink provider, allowing them to use his name, image, and likeness in their advertising.
The 19-year-old is also the first HBCU athlete to win the Jerry Rice Award and was recently named the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Freshman of the Year after leading JSU to its conference championship and its first division title in eight years. Sanders, a quarterback, finished the 2021 season with 3,231 passing yards and 30 touchdown passes.
As of July 1, 2021 and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, college athletes are able to earn money using their name, image ,and likeness. However, they are only able to do so if there aren’t rules in their college’s state prohibiting the practice.
Sanders is thrilled to be the first HBCU athlete to sign with Gatorade and understands the significance. According to Sanders, “It feels amazing to sign with Gatorade, a brand known for working with legendary athletes. To be the first HBCU athlete to sign with them, I feel very honored and humbled by that.” Sanders is also eager to bring Gatorade signing opportunities to other HBCU athletes and to garner more national attention for HBCUs overall.
As the son of legendary NFL player Deion Sanders, Sanders shared that football has always been a part of his life. In his words, “The training, teamwork, and preparation that goes into the sport have been instilled in me since I was little.” Stressing that his success is linked to the support and success of others — a belief that is the norm at HBCUs, he added, “As a quarterback, you train differently from other players, but none of this would be possible without my teammates.”
According to Chauncey Hamlett, Chief Marketing Officer & Vice President of PepsiCo Beverages North America, South Division, “As one of the country’s best freshmen college football players, Shedeur Sanders is another incredible addition to the Gatorade family.” He added, “In his first year at Jackson State University, he’s already demonstrated the excellence and tenacity Gatorade athletes are known for and we’re excited to partner with him and build upon our commitment of supporting HBCUs and their athletes.”
The signing of Shedeur Sanders is the latest step in a recent long-term commitment made to HBCUs by Gatorade’s parent company PepsiCo. Its support of HBCUs includes a partnership with JSU football coach Deion Sanders, the release of Pepsi’s first HBCU commercial spotlighting JSU and Florida A&M University marching bands, multi-year partnerships with the National Battle of The Bands, and as the primary beverage sponsor of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
According to Thomas Hudson, the president of Jackson State University, “Gatorade’s partnership with Jackson State University student Shedeur Sanders is pivotal because it reaffirms the national appeal that our student athletes possess. Shedeur is not only an exciting athlete, but he is an outstanding student.” He added, “The nation is now getting to see the level of talent that our institutions can produce both on the field and in the classroom.”
Hudson believes that this is an exciting time to be a partner with HBCUs, giving a nod to the attention that these historic institutions have received in recent years, including $560 million in donations from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the election of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris — Howard University graduate, and the influence of voting rights activist and Spelman College graduate Stacey Abrams on American democracy. Hudson looks forward to this level of support — and attention to HBCU scholar-athletes — becoming the norm in the coming years.”