Brenda Allen didn’t consider endorsement deals when she nicknamed her baby grandson, Ga’Quincy McKinstry, Kool-Aid. She thought about his smile — a big grin that reminded her of the Kool-Aid Man.
McKinstry has plenty to smile about these days.
Alabama’s highly touted freshman cornerback and the Kool-Aid drink announced an endorsement deal Wednesday, becoming the most obvious partnership to emerge since the NCAA began allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness on July 1.
In a full embrace of his nickname, McKinstry is listed as “Kool-Aid McKinstry” on Alabama’s roster.
After seeing McKinstry’s name recorded that way on the roster, the Kool-Aid brand thought: Oh yeah!
A partnership was born.
McKinstry might be at the head of a trend.
Years from now, perhaps we’ll see all sorts of athletes on college rosters who are named after product brands in hopes of landing an endorsement.
“I think the NIL is going to make a lot of changes in the way people do a lot of things. I wouldn’t doubt that moms and dads are going to start naming their kids Heinz Ketchup and Kraft Macaroni,” joked Demarcus Thornton, McKinstry’s friend who served as his representative to help secure the deal with the Kool-Aid brand.
But there’s more to like about McKinstry than his name.
A five-star recruit, McKinstry was the nation’s No. 1-ranked cornerback in the 2021 recruiting class. He’s expected to receive ample playing time during his first season within an Alabama defense that will rank among the nation’s elite.
That means you can expect to hear Kool-Aid mentioned on a lot of television broadcasts this fall.
“He’s better than people think on the field, and he’s an even better person. He’s just a fantastic kid,” said Thornton, who played defensive back at West Alabama and met McKinstry a couple of years ago through a connection with NFL and former Alabama defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick.
And, importantly, Thornton said McKinstry drinks the product he’s endorsing, guzzling Kool-Aid Pink Lemonade “like it’s water.”
“That’s his favorite flavor,” Thornton said.
Even McKinstry’s given name, Ga’Quincy, lends itself to a slogan.
“Drink Kool-Aid. It’ll Ga’Quench your thirst,” said Thornton, a Gadsden, Alabama-based entrepreneur who is the cofounder and CEO of athleisure company Biink.com.
How Ga’Quincy McKinstry kept the endorsement deal under wraps
McKinstry played it kool.
McKinstry appeared on “CBS This Morning” on Aug. 5 to discuss being named the male athlete of the year by the USA TODAY High School Sports Awards after a standout senior season that culminated in Pinson Valley High School winning Alabama's Class 6A championship.
During that nationally televised interview, McKinstry was asked about the possibility of an endorsement deal with Kool-Aid.
McKinstry already had signed a contract with the brand by that time, Thornton said, but the deal hadn’t been announced. McKinstry didn’t let it slip.
“Hopefully that’s something that can happen in the near future,” McKinstry told CBS.
McKinstry and the drink kept the partnership under wraps until Wednesday. To announce the deal, the Kool-Aid Man, the drink’s well-known mascot, swapped names with McKinstry on their Twitter and Instagram accounts for 24 hours.
McKinstry’s name topped the Kool-Aid brand’s account, while the Kool-Aid Man moniker shifted to McKinstry’s personal account.
The switcheroo reversed to its natural order on Thursday.
What’s next for Ga’Quincy McKinstry and Kool-Aid Man?
The partnership will feature continued mutual promotion on social media, Thornton said. And don’t be surprised if the Kool-Aid Man and Alabama’s Kool-Aid man appear together in the future.
“Kool-Aid Man is known to krash cultural moments,” a spokeswoman for the Kool-Aid brand, which is a product of the Kraft Heinz company, wrote in a statement to the USA TODAY Network. “Swapping names with Kool-Aid McKinstry (on social media) is his latest endeavor to show the power of ‘OH YEAH.’ Keep your eyes peeled for where Kool-Aid Man and McKinstry will pop up next.”
McKinstry would enjoy if Alabama fans toast to his deal with a tall glass of Kool-Aid.
“He’s going to be telling a lot of people to bring their Kool-Aid packs to the game this year,” Thornton said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Alabama football: How Kool-Aid came to endorse Ga'Quincy McKinstry