Historically, female athletes have earned substantially less than their male counterparts. However, the recent success of female NCAA athletes in securing lucrative NIL deals could help to close this pay gap.
How NIL Rule Changes Benefit NCAA Athletes
Prior to July 1, 2021, sponsorships would have jeopardized an athlete's NCAA eligibility. Now, revised NIL rules allow Division I, Division II, and Division III college athletes to receive compensation in exchange for the licensing of their name, image, and likeness. This includes a wide range of activities, such as signing autographs, wearing branded clothing, making personal appearances, and monetizing social media.
The change in NIL rules allows talented college athletes to build their personal brands and capitalize on their established fan base. Schools can't pay athletes directly for their NIL rights, but student-athletes are free to strike their own deals with private companies so long as the terms don't conflict with state law, school policies, or NCAA rules.
Why Female Athletes Are Benefiting From NIL
Initially, there was concern that female college athletes would be put on the backburner as companies chased after male athletes who were already household names. Fortunately, this hasn't been the case.
Now that athletes have been allowed to cash in on their NIL rights for a full year, Opendorse, a leading technology provider for the athlete endorsement industry, found that women's basketball ranks second to football in total compensation. Women's volleyball, softball, and women's swimming and diving round out the top five.
Some of the more high-profile NIL deals involving female NCAA athletes include:
- Fresno State University women's basketball stars Haley and Hanna Cavinder (known collectively as the Cavinder twins) were among the first to take advantage of NIL rule changes. They've signed several endorsement deals with companies, including Boost Mobile and Six Star Pro Nutrition.
- University of Connecticut women's basketball player Paige Bueckers landed endorsement deals with Gatorade, Cash App, and StockX. She also filed a trademark for "Paige Buckets" with plans to use her nickname to sell athletic apparel.
- University of Oregon women's basketball player Sedona Prince landed a deal offering both cash and equity to represent Riff, the maker of carbon-neutral energy drink Riff Energy+.
- Louisiana State University women's gymnast Olivia Dunne signed endorsement deals with Plantfuel, American Eagle, and Vuori. Olivia is the most followed student-athlete on social media, with over 5.7 million followers on Instagram and TikTok.
- University of Nebraska volleyball standout Lexi Sun signed sponsorships with Borsheims and REN Athletics.
While most companies are seeking deals with individual athletes, some are working with multiple women as part of a broader campaign. For example, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the dating and social networking app Bumble signed 50 female college athletes to NIL deals as part of its "50for50" program. The program specifically looked for women from diverse backgrounds, selecting athletes from state colleges as well as HBCUs.
There are several reasons why female college athletes are an appealing target for NIL deals:
- Female athletes often have large social media followings, with many young women having an extensive presence on Instagram and TikTok.
- Female athletes are more likely to actively engage with followers on social media.
- Female athletes reach a wider demographic.
- Many of the people who follow female athletes aren't necessarily traditional sports fans, which makes them a lucrative market for companies looking to expand their online presence.
How Female Athletes Can Benefit From Working With a NIL Attorney
For talented young women, NIL deals can be highly lucrative. With so much at stake, it's wise to consult an experienced NIL attorney before signing any contract. A NIL attorney can:
- Document the NIL relationship to ensure it remains NCAA compliant and won't put your eligibility at risk with a conflict of interest
- Represent the student-athlete in any disciplinary or enforcement actions brought by the NCAA related to the alleged improper use of NIL
- Draft or review contracts and provide legal advice as needed when entering into NIL relationships
- Provide representation in the event of a breach of contract where a student-athlete has not been paid for the work they've performed
Are You an Athlete Seeking to Protect Your Name, Image, and Likeness?
If you're an athlete concerned with protecting your name, image, and likeness rights, it is critical to speak with our experienced NIL lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call us directly at +1-207-747-5899 to schedule your free consultation.