Ohio State University helps student athletes build a brand with the Adobe Creator Challenge
The Ohio State University (OSU) is known for its strong academic standards, world-changing research, and notable alumni. But to many fans around the world, OSU is simply known as the home of the Buckeyes. Every year, people gather around televisions, in arenas, and on fields to cheer on student athletes to big wins.
The Eugene D. Smith Leadership Institute at the OSU Athletics Department gives back to its student athletes through development and support both on and off the field. The Institute delivers a wide variety of internships, events, and programs aimed at helping student athletes reach their goals after graduation: finding a job, entering graduate school, or pursuing the next level of their sport.
“We know that not every student athlete can — or wants to — compete professionally,” says Makena Lynch, assistant athletic director — Student-Athlete Development & Operational Strategy at OSU. “Our job is to give students the resources and tools that they will need to be successful once their playing days are over.”
With changes to rules governing name, image, and likeness (NIL) activities, student athletes now have more freedom to develop a personal brand — a skill that will help them whether they’re signing a major endorsement deal or presenting their resume to a prospective employer.
“We view NIL as a chance to empower students and help them take control of their story,” says Logan Hittle, Assistant Athletic Director of Name, Image and Likeness at OSU. “It’s our job to give them the tools they need to create a social media following, identify what makes them stand out, and create authentic and meaningful content for brands and organizations to work with.”
The OSU Athletics Department partnered with Adobe to offer the Adobe Creator Challenge program: a pilot initiative that aims to help student athletes develop skills to build their personal brand and promote themselves and their goals. Nearly 20 student athletes learned to use Adobe Creative Cloud apps to tell their own story. They created resumes and social media posts using Adobe Express templates, edited a professional headshot using Adobe Lightroom, recorded an introductory video using Adobe Premiere Rush, and then pulled it all together into a dynamic, multimedia web page.
Students learn new skills while building a personal brand
Even after graduating with a B.S. in computer science and engineering, Morgan Zahner traveled with her fellow Buckeyes to the NCAA national rowing championships. Zahner thrives on challenge and competition, and she attributes her success to her high levels of organization and motivation. The Creator Challenge offered an opportunity for her to learn new skills and indulge in her love of art, all while competing with fellow athletes to create the most compelling portfolio possible.
Zahner had already started building a personal brand on Instagram as a fitness trainer and coach. But Adobe Express offered a very user-friendly way of turning her story into a recognizable brand. Her portfolio page walks audiences through lessons learned as a D1 rower with a smart design in OSU scarlet and gray.
“I use Adobe Express every time I do an Instagram post now,” says Zahner. “The templates and colors help me keep everything looking the same to reinforce my brand. I’ve already accepted a job offer as a software engineer, but this challenge has taught me how I could create something to add to my LinkedIn page and sell myself for promotions or jobs in the future.”
Senior Jadon Roberson chose to join the OSU gymnastics team because of the school’s family atmosphere. “Ohio State feels very loving,” says Roberson. “It looks after us physically and mentally, while teaching us skills like being smart with money and taking advantage of NIL.”
As a business student specializing in marketing, Roberson is very familiar with the idea of finding creative ways to connect audiences with a brand, but the idea of developing a personal brand was new. His portfolio page uses clean text with embedded video and photographs to tell the story of how he balances his life as an athlete with his musical passions as an artist.
“I know how to make an Instagram post or record a video, but the Creator Challenge taught me how to use Adobe apps to communicate my own brand,” says Roberson. “It’s helped me gain a solid foundation for success by showing me how I can leverage effective communication ideas, products, and brands in my future career.”
Sophomore Yeva Mazur left her home country of Ukraine to pursue her academic and fencing goals at OSU. Art has long been a creative outlet for Mazur. She honed her skills in drawing, painting, and other physical mediums while attending art school, and she hopes to find a career that will fulfill her creative passion and vision. Through the Creator Challenge, Mazur learned the potential of digital art and design to express herself with a portfolio page that fully captures her story: from her success as a fencer, to her struggles due to the war in Ukraine, to her passion for art.
“I had heard of Adobe Creative Cloud and knew it was a powerful platform, but I had never worked in digital,” says Mazur. “It turned out to be really fun and easy. I learned how to create a webpage with Adobe Express and edit photos just the way I wanted with Lightroom. But the big thing I learned from the Creator Challenge was how to present my ideas without getting scared. I wasn’t comfortable talking in front of people at first, but being in a room with other student athletes, it made me feel like I could say what I wanted.”
Yeva Mazur’s designs.
Supporting students before and after graduation
After a successful pilot, OSU plans to incorporate feedback and expand the program to more student athletes.
“The Adobe Creator Challenge program embodies everything the Leadership Institute stands for, and truly prepares student-athletes for success both today and in life after graduation,” says Lynch. “By learning how to enhance their personal brand, student-athletes are uniquely positioned to maximize their Name, Image, and Likeness.”