Why NIL Favors Female Athletes (sort of)
Female collegiate athletes have cashed in big checks thanks to NIL. But at what cost?
When NIL first went live many skeptics wondered whether it would further the gap between men’s and women’s collegiate athletics.
They were wrong.
NIL has actually closed the gap and provided just as many opportunities for women as men. The deals are more lucrative and worth a lot more money (generally speaking).
But there are still skeptics.
Why Are Females Worth More in NIL
There was the illusion, that NIL would favor the most talented athletes, especially men’s football and basketball players.
While many of them have signed lucrative deals, this hasn’t been how NIL played out as a whole.
At the end of the day, NIL comes down to your social media following and how many people you can reach.
A bunch of female collegiate athletes have extremely large followings on their social media accounts - especially Tik Tok and Instagram.
That is the sole reason they are more valuable than the male athlete.
A brand wants to maximize their reach. That is why some of the largest brands in the world have chosen to work with female college athletes over their male counterparts.
It also doesn’t matter if you’re the star point guard for the best women’s basketball team or the backup goalie for the worst team in D3 soccer - as long as you garner attention and engagement from your online audience.
Some Notable Female Athletes Winning The NIL Game
There’s a clear trend you’ll be able to pick up on.
Livvy Dunne, LSU Gymnastics
With nearly 6 million followers on TikTok and Instagram, Dunne is the most followed student-athlete on social media.
She is a “NIL-ionaire” - making over $1 million in NIL deals.
Notable Deals: American Eagle, EA Sports, Vuori, PlantFuel
Jada Williams, UCLA WBB Commit
UCLA commit Jada Williams is only 16 years old and has signed a multi-year deal with Spalding, a basketball equipment and sportswear company.
NIL has already reached female high school sports.
Haley and Hanna Cavinder, Fresno State WBB
The Cavinder twins seem to be signing a big NIL deal every week. They have a combined audience of over 4 million.
This basketball duo will make more money than their coach this year.
Notable Deals: Boost Mobile, Six Star Protein, PSD Underwear, HBO
Azzi Fudd, UConn WBB
UConn basketball star Azzi Fudd (last year’s top recruit) became Chipotle’s first-ever college athlete ambassador.
Her teammate Paige Bueckers has signed notable deals with Gatorade and StockX.
Lexi Sun, Nebraska Volleyball
Lexi Sun signed deals with Borsheims and REN Athletics.
For her partnership with Borsheims, Sun created a unique jewelry collection, and her custom-designed sweatshirt with REN Athletics quickly sold out.
The Bad-side of NIL for Female Athletes
There has been some backlash to all this though (and from a woman funny enough).
Candace Buckner at the Washington Post wrote an article basically scolding brands saying they’re only signing deals with female athletes based on their sex appeal.
She wants brands to reward female athletes based on their performance and not their physical attributes.
It seems however, that a combination of both is happening.
Looking at the women listed above, they are all elite athletes, on top of their social media savviness.
The Cavinder twins are all-league players, Azzi Fudd was the #1 recruit, Lexi Sun was 3rd team All-America, and Jada Williams is a top HS recruit.
Buckner went on to say this in her article:
These women are monetizing their platforms after discovering two fundamental truths in this world:
1. If you put one leg in front of the other, point your toe and shift your weight to one side, it makes your butt look bigger in pictures.
2. Thirsty dudes stay thirsty.
Their “likes” make mirror selfies and beach pics go viral, and brands — because they’re just as thirsty — take notice.
I can’t disagree with her that brands have pulled a social media influencer feel for female NIL deals, but the market is the market.
This isn’t the fault of any of these women (or the brands signing them), but what our society and market dictates as valuable.
The classic - “don’t hate the player, hate the game” scenario.
Without college sports and NIL, it’s hard to believe any of these women would have done as well for themselves as just influencers.
Although there are still some improvements to be made, NIL has provided further opportunities.
It’s also fair to say that many of these female athletes wouldn’t be signing these deals if they didn’t have large social media followings.
But let’s not backlash these women for taking advantage of their athletic and entrepreneurial abilities.
p.s. the not-so-secret formula is laid out for signing lucrative NIL deals. Expect more female athletes to hop on the wave.