Burns, NC State cash in with NIL deals during Final Four runs :: WRALSportsFan.com

Burns, NC State cash in with NIL deals during Final Four runs :: WRALSportsFan.com

NC State center DJ Burns added a few titles over the past few weeks.

ACC Tournament champion.

Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional.

Company pitchman.

The Wolfpack’s run to the Final Four and Burns’ stellar play and outgoing personality have earned the big center a slew of name, image and likeness (NIL) endorsement deals.

“He’s the guy that everybody wants to pull for in March Madness when your team’s out,” said Chris Vurnakes, the executive director of NC State’s OnePack NIL collective. “He is having fun and this team is having fun. We’re an 11 seed in the Final Four. What could be a better story?”

NC State reached the men’s Final Four for the first time since 1983 and the women’s Final Four for the first time since 1998 over the weekend, leading to a 40-percent growth in membership at OnePack, Vurnakes said.

Guard DJ Horne has gotten a few deals, including one with Turbo Tax, Adidas, Applebee’s and BreakingT. The entire team, including walk-ons, will benefit from another deal made possible by donors.

Both Horne and Burns were at the restaurant located near Triangle Town Center on Wednesday. Fans lined up for pictures and autographs and turned the restaurant into a sea of red and white.

“They are great for basketball,” Jonathan Reed, a Wolfpack fan, said. “Great for the community.”

Lamar Horne, DJ Horne’s father, said the NIL deals have taught his son the value of making valuable financial decisions.

“I love it, it’s hear to stay,” he explained. “We’ve helped him with how to invest [and] how to set money aside for taxes

Burns, however, is the unquestioned NIL winner from NC State’s run.

Burns was hawking Raising Cane’s chicken on his Twitter account. And Turbo Tax. And shirts from Barstool Sports. And shirts from BreakingT, including one which features “The Legend of DJ Burns.” OnePack launched several new pieces of Burns’ merchandise at its store as well. He, Horne and several other players appear in a new CVS spot on Instagram.

“It sets him up for his future,” Burns’ mother, Takela Burns, told WRAL in an interview on Monday night. “That’s what I’m excited for. His face, his name, his image can be used to generate some generational wealth for him and his future family.”

Burns is an assistant principal at an elementary school in South Carolina. Her husband, Dwight Burns Sr., has worked for the South Carolina Department of Parole, Probation and Prison Services for 25 years.

DJ Burns also owns two vending machines, a business he’s encouraged others to get into.

“We’re taken care of, but we love to see our son progressing in a way, kind of like being a business owner with his vending machines and things he’s doing,” Takela Burns said. “He’s setting himself up as a young man to have business ventures coming out of college, which is probably the most important thing coming out of NIL.”

He scored 29 points in the Elite Eight victory over Duke on a dazzling assortment of post moves. His big body, exquisite footwork and terrific passing combined with a personality that leaps off the television screen has made him a March star.

“DJ Burns has been around for a long time, but his personality, his play has really opened eyes of a lot of folks around the country,” Keatts said before the Wolfpack’s game against Duke.

That includes NBA MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets.

Burns’ success is, in many ways, how NIL was first envisioned. A player bursts onto the scene and companies to become involved with him to help tout their products.

Others are taking notice, too. Vurnakes said Turbo Tax wants to do more with Burns and other companies could unveil deals before the Final Four.

“He deserves everything he’s getting,” Vurnakes said.

OnePack NIL, formerly Pack of Wolves, has also seen corporate interest in NC State’s women’s team, which also reached the Final Four on Sunday.

“It’s tough because the women are getting a little bit overshadowed by the men,” Vurnakes said. “But what they’re doing is just as incredible, just a noteworthy.”

Star guard Aziaha James, who made 7-of-9 3-pointers in the Elite Eight victory over Texas, is attracting interest. So, too, is Sanaya Rivers.

NC State athletics director Boo Corrigan sent an email to “friends of NC State athletics” on March 19 pitching OnePack.

“The success of our student-athletes and teams begins with the support of you – our fans and donors,” Corrigan wrote. “Part of that success and support now includes OnePack Collective, the official collective of NC State Student-Athletes.”

The timing of the email, two days after the men’s team claimed the ACC title, could not have been better. While NC State’s football success has led to an outpouring of support for that program, the basketball success has produced a new wave of basketball members.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people who had never heard of OnePack or didn’t know a lot about it, who have joined up, created a membership or are now considering it when previously they were not,” Vurnakes said.

The collective is offering an all-expense paid trip to Phoenix that includes tickets, seats on the team’s charter flight and hotel rooms, a promotion that has brought in more than $40,000 since it launched after the victory against Duke.

WRAL reporter Aaron Thomas contributed to this story.

Source: wralsportsfan.com