Data & Tech

NIL deals are distributed evenly between men and women, report says

That marks a shift from last year, when NIL deals skewed more toward men than women athletes, according to SponsorUnited.
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It’s a good time to be playing women’s college sports.

Not only did this year’s women’s March Madness final see higher viewership than the men’s final for the first time, but women college athletes are now also seeing about even distribution of NIL deals as men, according to a report from SponsorUnited.

Girls club: Of the top 100 athletes based on number of NIL deals in 2023, 52% are women and 48% are men, according to SponsorUnited’s 2023-2024 NIL Marketing Partnerships report.

  • In 2022, that split was 38% women, 62% men.
  • Volleyball and softball largely drove the growth.
  • The number of players from those two sports who made the top 100 list doubled from six in 2022 to 12 in 2023.

Basketball, though, is still dominant: 35% of women’s NIL deals are in that sport, compared to 18% in gymnastics and 15% in volleyball. Women’s basketball outranked men’s basketball in terms of average deals per athlete, with women’s basketball deals up 60% from 2022 to 2023.

Women’s volleyball saw the most growth in average number of deals per athlete from 2022 to 2023, with the number of volleyball deals doubling in the past year, according to the report. That’s thanks, in part, to recent Southern Methodist University graduate Alex Glover, who activated 41 deals in the past 12 months compared to eight the year prior. Volleyball has also shown signs of sponsorship growth at the professional level in the US recently.

Go No pro: A “staggering” number—35%—of brands now invest only in college athletes and have no major pro athlete deals, according to the report. Hey Dude Shoes, EA Sports, CVS, Adidas, and Raising Cane’s have the highest number of NIL deals across sports.

It’s not unheard of for college athletes to carry their NIL deals with them to the pros, but it’s also not very common, per SponsorUnited: Less than 15% of NIL deals are renewed during the first year of an athlete’s pro career. “Regardless of sport or gender, athletes tend to transition to alternative brands upon finding success in the professional leagues,” according to the report.

Keep an eye out: Guess which college athlete SponsorUnited highlighted as one whom brands should watch? Hint: She recently played her last game with the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. With nine brand deals and 1.4 million social media followers—plus a laundry list of NCAA records—Caitlin Clark can certainly “present favorable exposure for brands,” the report says.

In addition to Clark, University of Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams, University of Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders, Stanford University forward Cameron Brink, Colorado basketball forward Cody Williams, and UCLA gymnast Jordan Chiles (an Olympic silver medalist and Paris hopeful) could also make for promising brand partners in their collegiate and pro careers, SponsorUnited suggested.

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