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The Kelces: Taking Cincinnati Bearcat NIL to New Heights

Jason and Travis Kelce
© Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY SPORTS

Cincinnati football has struggled to adjust to being in the Big 12. In the Bearcats' debut Big 12 football season last year, they went 1-8 in conference play and 3-9 overall. Given they have a new coach in Scott Satterfield as well as being brand new to Power 4/5 conference play, this wasn't unexpected, even when the Bearcats made the College Football Playoff in 2021. The Bearcats have been going through transition years over the past three seasons, a transition that very few teams have done seamlessly. However, two familiar faces of Cincinnati Football may have the Bearcats on the fast track to Big 12 success and are helping the program reach new heights. Those two, are the Kelce brothers, Travis and Jason.

Who Are Jason and Travis Kelce?

This question may not need answering, especially when you consider not only their prestigious playing careers in college and the NFL but also the pop culture impact these two have. However, just in case a reminder is needed, Travis and Jason Kelce are two brothers who attended the University of Cincinnati and played for their football program. They would end up being drafted to the NFL, Jason in 2011 and Travis in 2013, and go on to have careers that have them ranked among the best at their positions all-time.

Jason Kelce was a stalwart center for the Eagles from 2011-2023, bringing a Super Bowl to Philadelphia in 2017, while Travis Kelce is arguably the best tight end of all time, having over 11,000 yards receiving on 907 catches, 74 touchdowns, and 3 Super Bowls with the Chiefs so far in his ongoing career.

As mentioned earlier, the brothers also have a significant pop culture impact, not just being famous for their playing prowess. The Kelces host their own critically acclaimed sports podcast called "New Heights" where they talk about growing up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, football, and general happenings around the world. The podcast is one of the most successful podcasts in the world right now, earning a $100 million media deal this past month and having hundreds of thousands of listeners per episode. Travis Kelce also dates renowned pop star Taylor Swift, further expanding his pop culture influence.

The two have excelled in managing multi-faceted careers and their celebrity status, all while having a deep love for their home state of Ohio and the University of Cincinnati community. This love isn't just shown through how they speak about Ohio and Cincinnati though, the Kelces have recently invested in Cincinnati's Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) fund named Cincy Reigns on top of multiple local charities and community improvement initiatives, but it's their NIL work that is the focus of this piece.

How the Kelces are Helping Build Back the Cincinnati Bearcats

The Kelces love giving back to the communities that made them and they have fun doing it. One of those communities that helped build the Kelces into who they are today was the community of Cincinnati Football. With their wealth and influence, the Kelces have been a part of improving Cincinnati's NIL program since its inception, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the fund and hosting events to benefit Bearcat Athletics. Not only are these events though, but these are events that are fun, fulfilling and creative. For one recent event, the Kelces brought their podcast to Cincinnati's campus, hosting "New Heights Live" at Fifth Third Arena, home to Cincinnati Basketball.

A portion of the proceeds for the event went toward Cincy Reigns and the event sold out within minutes. The brothers were joined by Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow for the event, making it all the more popular. Travis Kelce even earned his degree from Cincinnati just a couple of weeks before the show and proceeded to chug a beer on the podium to promote the event. Jason also went onto Wrestlemania to make a guest appearance to promote the show. The event had raving reviews and some tickets went for well over $1000. While the total amount raised for Cincy Reigns is not known, it is expected to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

"It was a no-brainer for us, to do something for Cincy Reigns, do something for the student-athletes and the athletic department. This place did so much for our careers... even the guys that didn't play in the league...we wanted to do something that continues to build this place up." Jason Kelce said in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer.

This event, among others the Kelces have held, represents just how important the Kelces are to Cincinnati's athletics program, specifically Cincinnati Football. The money they bring in for NIL and the fun, innovative fundraising ideas they've helped come up with have earned Cincinnati a nomination for the Best Institutional Program Award at the 2024 NIL Summit Awards in June.

Not only does this attention to NIL bring in money for the school, but as Jason mentioned earlier, it improves the lives of student-athletes and improves Cincinnati's chances to recruit marquee athletes to their program. Cincinnati has struggled since moving conferences and losing a lot of its talent to the Draft or the portal, so building up NIL and maintaining a strong presence in that landscape is imperative if they want to keep up with the Joneses in the Big 12. The Kelces are doing their part by not only using events like these to bolster NIL but also giving the university gifts to help meet fundraising goals.

Jason and Travis Kelce
© Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SPORTS


This situation is representative of what we will be seeing more and more of as the NIL landscape is more established. Alumni with spending power will be a key aspect of building up NIL, this is widely known, however, what isn't is coming up with fun, creative ideas on how to raise NIL funds.

The Kelces bring the best of both worlds to Cincinnati Football, which is why we may see a resurgence of the program here in the next couple of years. Cincinnati did go 3-9 last year but made plenty of those games competitive against good competition. With a bit of help, through these NIL initiatives and Satterfield establishing himself as head coach, the Bearcats could be well on their way to Big 12 success.

While it certainly isn't a two-man job raising money for Cincinnati NIL, the Kelces pull a great weight and certainly do more than their part for a place that gave them so much. We could soon see programs trying to emulate what the Kelce brothers have done. The more alumni buy into their programs, the more we could see that program's success soar. The new era of NIL is upon us, and the Kelce brothers are fully bought in.


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