(CNN Business) — Freshman Diernst Collin’s path to Internet meme fame began with a confused look at a Poppies in New Jersey.
This was over a decade ago, and the then 9 year old I was in line waiting for the family pack of chickenCookies and Chips at a fast food chain in Irvington. A stranger pulls out his phone and starts recording Colin, comparing him to Lil Terrio, who at the time was famous on social media for his dance moves.
Colin, holding a glass of Popeyes Lemonade, glared at the man, wondering why he had the camera in his face. The stranger later posted a clip on the video-sharing app Vine, where it went viral and was widely used as a GIF to express anxiety or nervousness, along with captions such as “When your teacher puts you on a test.” Catches cheating.”
A decade later, Collin is a freshman on the football team at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, and has come full circle. Popeyes this month signed on to sponsor an 18-year-old who will use his name, image and likeness on the fast-food restaurant’s billboards and other ads.
She’s finally cashing in on her six seconds of internet fame, although her family wasn’t thrilled about it at first.
“When it happened, we didn’t want to be the center of attention. And just like that, people would come up to my dad and say, ‘Hey, we saw your son in this,’ trying to make a joke. My dad didn’t like his kids being teased,” Colin told CNN. “But now, the fact that I traded it for a blessing, he likes it.”
Collin takes advantage of an NCAA policy that allows college athletes to earn money from advertising
A name, image and likeness agreement, commonly known as NIL, allows college athletes to receive compensation from brand endorsements that use their name, image or likeness for marketing and promotional materials . The agreements stem from a 2021 NCAA policy change that allows student-athletes to take advantage of sponsorship opportunities.
Popeyes announced the deal this month following a social media campaign by Colin and his fans. To launch the sponsorship, the fast food chain posted an Instagram video of Colin telling his unlikely story.
“This is where our story began,” he says in the video with his viral photo at Popeyes in the background. “The moment that turned us into a meme. We didn’t demand it. We didn’t get it. But don’t worry little man, we didn’t let that stop us. Because the older we get, the tougher we get.” We learned to support each other. We focus on inspiration and motivation in the championship. This is where our story began and now a new beginning begins.”
The first Popeyes billboard featuring Colin went up last weekend in his hometown of East Orange, New Jersey. It features the viral image and a new photo of adult Colin, mimicking his 9-year-old expression with a large Popeyes drink in hand.
“Fans should be on the lookout for other fun content to come,” Popeyes said in a statement. “From memes to dreams, Dienerst and Poppies once again dominate social media.”
Sponsorship started with a call on social media
The association between the brand and the young man is the result of another moment in the social network.
On January 8, Colin posted a memory of his viral photo on Twitter and Instagram and urged his followers to help draw the attention of Popeyes to a Void Deal. His followers joined in with posts supporting Colin and tagging Popeyes.
“Collin Dienerst is now a freshman offensive lineman at Lake Erie College Division II and if this guy doesn’t have ZERO deal by tomorrow, Louisiana Kitchen needs to get rid of upper management.” tweeted a man.
Even other fast food restaurants joined the campaign.
Buffalo Wild Wings tweeted, “Poppies, do it for Vine,” referring to the now-defunct video platform. He tweeted, “Let’s talk over lunch.” rival kfc In a message tagging Colin.
— Popeyes (@Popeyes) January 12, 2023
Within hours, Colin said, Popeyes sent him a private message and a company representative called him with an offer. A few days later, Popeyes announced the sponsorship on social media. It read, “Dienerst is proud to welcome Collin to the family.”
Colin said he’s excited about the sponsorship and hopes to end up with his own meal at Popeyes, like rapper Travis Scott and other celebrities have done with fast-food chains like McDonald’s. Until then, she’s happy promoting her favorite fast food chain, where her favorite dish is a chicken sandwich, fries, a cookie and, yes, lemonade.
To his surprise, people from all over the country supported his effort.
“With the power of the Internet behind you, a lot can happen,” Colin said. “I can’t believe I can say I’m officially sponsored by Popeyes. Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word!
He hopes to play professional football after college.
Colin declined to discuss the financial aspects of his deal with Popeyes.
Louis Moore, an associate professor of sports history at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, said it is unusual for a national brand to sign a relatively unknown athlete to a zero deal.
“Traditionally, male athletes have to be very popular before they can be endorsed by a national brand. But they are popular because of their success on the field, not because of the meme,” Moore said.
“The link with Colin shows that there has been a change in this thinking. Popularity no longer has to be based on athletic success. Thanks to social networks, young athletes can enter university with a brand that appeals to companies. Could be tempting.”
This type of zero agreement means more economic opportunities for college athletes, he said.
Colin, a communications major at Lake Erie College, hopes to play professional football before becoming a sports analyst. He never imagined that a decade later the Vine clip would bring him fame and a branded business.
In fact, his family tried to get the video removed from the Internet, he said.
He said, ‘I never thought it would be this big. “I thought people would move on and forget about the meme. When I talk to my father he gets really emotional because he didn’t expect this (success) for me.”
The meme has grown on him and his family. Colin said his father plans to put up a Popeyes “Mems to Dreams” sign in his barbershop so he can share his son’s story with customers.
Does Collin use his memes with his friends? Not too much. Most of the time you prefer to send emoji.
“I’ve used it less than 10 times,” he said. “I’m not a huge fan of using it, because that’s me, but sometimes I send it on just for fun.”