On the field, there is little Jocelyn Alo can’t do. She is a 2x Women’s College World Series champion, 3x First Team All-American, all-time NCAA home run leader and #1 overall pick in the 2022 WPF Inaugural College Draft.
We are quickly approaching 50 years since Title IX forever changed the game for girls and women in sports. Not only that, but next month marks 1 year for NIL endorsement deals for NCAA. While women in college sports have made strides on the field, they have also had success off with brands seeking their partnership and chance to leverage their social following.
Lauren Burke of the Longhorns might have lost the World Series title, but she’s a winner in terms of number of deals. Burke has 16 deals which leverage her 94KK social following.
Which brands have tagged the Softball star as a new partner?
7-Eleven, CASETify, Mercari & Brumate are a few of the brands leveraging Burke’s social following. Across her social posts each brand has an average engagement of nearly 50K which accounts for over 5% of her total audience. Lauren has 20 branded posts overall which brings the total engagement over 750K.
Female athletes in other college sports have also been able to successfully create partnerships with brands. Hanna Cavinder a Fresno State basketball player, Jordan Chiles a UCLA Gymnast & Brooke Roberts who plays soccer for Arkansa all have 10 or more endorsements. Not a bad stat to have in under a year! Cavinder & Roberts each have over 2M social followers, though Cavinder doubles Roberts following with 4.4M. With such a large following, Cavinder’s brands see an average engagement of nearly 100K. With TikTok being her most used social platform (making up 4M of her total following), 17 of her 22 brand deals have been tagged on TikTok.
Within the women’s college sports landscape, WingStop, H&R Block, Degree, UPTIME Energy & Outback Steakhouse are the top five brands signing female college athletes to deals with each brand having over nine deals. Social Media is the top asset utilized in these deals as 85% of the time the athletes are tagging their brand partners in social media.
With March Madness wrapping up earlier this week, it signifies the end of the first ever March Madness tournament in which many athletes participating have NIL deals. Before the tournament began, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero signed a deal with Yahoo! Sports in order to promote the company’s bracket “Pick’em game”. In addition to this deal, Sheets and Giggles (a mattress company) signed five athletes to be a part of their “Sleep Sixteen” campaign. This initiative promoted the effects of a good night’s sleep by partnering with five female and male athletes who played the least amount of minutes on their teams, educating fans on the importance of rest.
During the tournament, two unlikely athletes were able to capitalize on big time moments.
The first being Doug Edert, who helped lead the 15th seeded Saint Peters Peacocks to a historic Elite Eight run. During this run Edert capitalized by signing a NIL Deal with Buffalo Wild Wings. Another unlikely deal came from an athlete, but not on the court. During the Saint Mary’s vs. Indiana first round game, a ball got stuck on top of the hoop. When nobody could get the ball down, Indiana cheerleader Cassidy Cerny saved the day by getting the ball down. Days after the game, BreakingT signed a deal with Cerny creating a shirt to encapsulate the moment.
Five popular basketball players have been taking advantage of the new NIL rules. Azzi Fudd, Zia Cooke, Paige Bueckers, Hailey Van Lith, & Paolo Banchero all have over four deals and more than 250k social media followers.
State Farm, Nissan, GEICO, and Continental Tire are still alive in the Final Four. These four brands have a sponsorship deal with all of the remaining teams.
Insurance, Auto and Finance have the most assets, this is twice as much as the next category, Healthcare. There are nine insurance brands with deals ties to the remaining four teams, deals in this category are led by State Farm and GEICO. The leading category, Auto, has 10 brands with deals. This category is lead by Continental Tire which has the most total deals.
The four remaining teams, on average, have 28 sponsorship deals per team. Leading the group is the Kansas Jayhawks with 31 deals, followed closely by Villanova with 30. Going head to head in the Final Four are long time rivals Duke and North Carolina. Duke beats UNC in regards to total sponsorships with 28 deals compared to UNC’s 23. The average amongst the rest of the NCAA Schools & Conferences is nine. There are over 2,400 brands buying sponsorships within college basketball across 280+ different schools/conferences. State Farm not only is top for the Final Four, but also across all teams, while GEICO and Nissan each make the top five.
Many brands take advantage of the spotlight that NCAA March Madness provides, and product launches are a common theme among many brands. More than 10 brands through the first two rounds of men’s college basketball promoted their new products using ad space during the tournament.
Coca-Cola, Sonic, Taco Bell, and Nissan are a few of the brands that capitalized on ad space for a new product while each leveraging NCAA Schools & Conferences; the most out of any other league/association. Coca-Cola and Nissan have over 120 sponsorship deals respectively across sports & entertainment.
Nissan has multiple campaigns running throughout the tournament including eight ad spots featuring six new vehicles; including the all-electric Ariya and all-new Z. 39% of Nissans sponsorship portfolio is with NCAA Schools & Conferences which amounts for over 50 sponsorship deals.
Sonic debuted their Oreo Waffle cone on CBS during the first round. 25% of Sonic’s sponsorship portfolio is with NCAA Schools & Conferences. Sonic also has deals with two teams who made the NCAA tournament this year, the Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Coca-Cola Coffee with Vanilla flavoring has been showcased during multiple rounds of the tournament. Having over 1,000 sponsorship deals worldwide, Coca-Cola’s sponsorship portfolio has NCAA Schools and Conferences beating out Major Pro Sports and any other leagues as the brand has 13% of their total deals within those schools/conferences.
Buick’s “See Her Greatness” campaign debuted March 12 on CBS during the conference tournament games prior to the start of the NCAA March Madness tournament. Women’s Empowerment causes have increased significantly over the past 3 years for company wide initiatives. According to SponsorUnited’s data, from 2019 to 2021 there was over an 800% increase in brands spending on the cause while 2020 to 2021 alone saw a 229% increase.
The top two brands supporting Women’s Empowerment causes are Simmons Bank and Chase. Over the last two years, Chase has been one of the top two brands supporting the cause each year.
Throughout International Women’s Month, Chase had four nights dedicated to Women’s Empowerment with the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, Golden State Warriors and Santa Cruz Warriors.
From 2019 to 2021, nearly 2x more brands participated in cause related content for a total of over 3,000 brands getting involved this year. Financial and Healthcare brands led the way in terms of categories while EverFi and adidas were the top two brands in 2021.
Buick’s campaign generated buzz during the first two rounds of March Madness as the campaign’s goal is to help drive a conversation and visibility around women’s athletics. As noted by Buick, over 40% of athletes are women but they obtain less than 10% of media coverage. Buick and TOGETHXR have teamed up to create content where viewers can see a discussion between female athletes during the NCAA tournaments.
Over 115 brands have taken advantage of signing a men’s college basketball player to a NIL deal since granted access in July 2021. Mercury NFT claims the #1 overall spot with 11 total NIL deals. The brand’s college portfolio includes Dontaie Allen, Keion Brooks Jr., Davion Mintz, Jacob Toppin, TyTy Washington, along with Coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats.
Rounding out the top four spots are Morgan & Morgan (10 deals), FTX (7 deals) and Raising Cane’s (7 deals). 48% of Morgan & Morgan’s total sponsorship deals are with collegiate basketball players while FTX continues to expand their portfolio across numerous colleges and leagues during the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
The technology category has over 30 endorsements within the NIL space with NFT’s accounting for nearly 50% of tech category deals. Ranked by sub-categories in technology, NFT is second after Non-Athletic Apparel/Footwear. Cryptocurrency is 5th as brands lean on the younger generation to promote the blockchain technology that has recently revolutionized the technology industry. Instagram is the most utilized social media platform by these athletes as it beats out Twitter in terms of the number of branded posts.
10 of the Kentucky Wildcat players have landed in the top 30 for NCAA men’s basketball players in terms of NIL endorsement deals. Here is the full list of the top athletes with 5 or more endorsement deals:
Ranked by total sponsorship deals, banking and restaurants/event space lead categories in deals with NCAA Schools & Conferences. These top two categories are the only two categories to have over 500 deals within the NCAA, while banking brands are the clear leaders having over 40% more sponsorship deals than any other category.
The retail category expanded their portfolio with over 100 new deals within the NCAA this year, more new deals than any other category.
PNC Bank led the banking category in total sponsorship deals, followed by US Bank and Wells Fargo. These brands dominated this category each sponsoring almost 50% more NCAA Schools & Conferences than any other brand..
The restaurants / event spaces category was led by Buffalo Wild Wings who was the only brand in the category to have sponsorship deals with 20+ schools. First Watch was the biggest emerging brand in the restaurants/event spaces category signing sponsorship deals with 7 schools in 2021. Currently, 45% of all of First Watch’s sponsorships are with NCAA schools/conferences, including the Kentucky Wildcats and UCF Knights.