‘Kentucky Road’ an avenue of the future for UK student-athletes

Published 3:30 pm Friday, June 18, 2021

The University of Kentucky athletics department is looking ahead and providing a future roadmap for present and future student-athletes.

As college programs begin ushering a new era in which student-athletes will be allowed to to receive benefits from name, image and likeness, Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart has introduced “Kentucky Road” as an avenue of the future.

The initiative is an 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 and “the best external vendors.”

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“We believe steadfastly in the transformative power of the college athletics experience,” 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 athletics department plans to “build on existing innovations like 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,” Kentucky senior 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.”

Current benefits for student-athletes include brand protection, enhancement and engagement, a financial education and lifetime scholarships.

During his lone season at Kentucky, Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro benefited from the school’s 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.

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,” Herro said.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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