At just 20-years-old, Deja Kelly has been stellar to watch both on and off the basketball court.
As previously reported by AfroTech, this year has been filled with first-of-its-kind feats for the North Carolina Tar Heels star including being one of the first athletes to sign a Dunkin’ endorsement deal and signing her first long-term equity deal as BARCODE’s first-ever female name, image, and likeness (NIL) shareholder.
While Kelly has taken on multiple firsts, she’s continuing to add even more wins to her plate.
The UNC player recently signed a one-year partnership with global sportswear brand Actively Black — making her the Black-owned label’s first-ever NIL signee — according to a press release.
Black Athletes Supporting The Community
Per the press release, proceeds from Actively Black’s sales will go toward “educational programs and resources that promote physical, mental and emotional health and support HBCU athletics, social justice initiatives and diversity and representation advocacy.”
Being all about investing in the Black community herself made the brand the perfect partner for Kelly. As she is a part of the movement of teaming up with Black-owned companies, she believes there’s an influx of Black student-athletes on the same wave of “building together.”
“I think there’s been a shift recently with the exposure that Black-owned brands are getting,” Kelly shared with AfroTech. “You see more and more athletes from different sports support small and growing Black-owned brands, it’s really great to see. I think more and more athletes are being conscious of who they do deals with and want to continue to circulate the dollars within the Black community.”
Deja Kelly's Word Of Advice On NIL Deals
Balancing being able to excel in basketball while juggling partnerships with Fortune 500 companies is far from easy.
To show up for her team, as well as for herself by knowing the ins and outs of her deals, Kelly ensures that she has all hands on deck, especially her own.
“My team makes sure I’m involved in everything from the initial meeting to after we’ve signed these deals,” she said. “I won’t partner with brands that I don’t already use or have an affinity for, so every deal that I have is authentic to who I am.”
She added: “I think that’s my biggest advice for young Black athletes, make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Ask questions, and do your own homework so that you’re not surprised by anything.”
Upcoming Plans From The UNC Star
Kelly’s inked deals across food, clothing, electronics, and more, but what’s next on her radar? A beauty brand, she told AfroTech. Whether it’s makeup, hair, etc., the beauty product junkie would love to invest in the space in the near future.
Until then, Kelly is currently in the process of launching her basketball camp. As previously shared by AfroTech, the event is set to empower young women.
“I’m super excited about the EmPOWERment camp! It’s taking place on August 14 in Duncanville, Texas. I’m grateful to Actively Black and all my other brand partners for wanting to help and be a part of this day. We have young athletes from elementary school-aged all the way to high school who will not only be learning basketball skills but life skills as well!”
Kelly continued: “I think learning how to conduct myself on and off the court has been crucial to my success as a NIL athlete and I want to pass that knowledge on to these young athletes early, so they know what to do and what to look for when going to the next level.”