By Ken Reed

When it became okay for college athletes to benefit financially from their names, images and likenesses (NIL), the thought was that only football players and men’s basketball players would really benefit.

Well, that hasn’t been the case. Women in a variety of sports are doing quite well, better than their male counterparts in a lot of cases.

According to a company called Opendorse, which is helping universities and college athletes navigate marketing opportunities in the NIL era, football players are receiving the most endorsement money, followed by women’s basketball players, men’s basketball players, and then two more women’s sports: swimming and diving and volleyball. Paige Bueckers, a women’s hoops player for UConn, is reportedly earning over $1 million.

“If you take football players out of the equation and look at how student-athletes are monetizing sponsors in this new world, women’s sports athletes are crushing the men,” says Blake Lawrence, chief executive of Opendorse.

Stanford women’s basketball player Haley Jones is another female college athlete that’s crushing the NIL game. Her marketing agent is PRP, a talent agency in Las Vegas whose clients include Shaquille O’Neal and Jayson Tatum. She has sponsor deals with Beats by Dre, NBA 2K, Coin Cloud and hair product company Uncle Funky’s Daughter.

For years, the NCAA has undervalued and undermarketed women’s sports. In last year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament, Oregon’s Sedona Prince highlighted, via social media posts, the second-class treatment the NCAA was giving women relative to their male counterparts. Prince shared videos of the joke of a “weight room” the women had been provided vs. the massive training facilities provided for the men. She also highlighted the significant differences in accommodations, meals and swag bags.

Despite minimal promotional efforts by the NCAA, the 2021 NCAA women’s basketball championship game between Stanford and Arizona outdrew the average NBA playoff game last season. And ratings for this year’s women’s games rose once again.

The current interest by marketers in female college athletes is but another example of how the NCAA has misjudged the appeal and value of its women’s sports teams.

Nevertheless, we’re entering a boon period for women’s college athletics, with or without the NCAA’s help.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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