Sponsor Insights

Roger Federer & Serena Williams Endorsements

While the storied careers of Roger Federer and Serena Williams–two of the best tennis players in the sport’s history–have just come to an end, both athletes are primed to continue their successful sponsorship careers off the court.

With over 34M total followers each on social media, Williams is the most popular female tennis player across social media, while Federer’s following ranks second behind Rafael Nadal. Though both were wrapping up their careers, Williams’ followers increased 7% in the last 12 months, and Federer’s following grew by 3%. This year alone, Williams and Federer have 4 of the top 5 social posts (2 each) across pro tennis players, ranked by total engagement.

Both athletes will almost certainly continue to leverage their powerful social platforms for brand partnerships. Williams’ 19 deals–among them Gatorade, Nike, Ubrelvy, Audemars Piguet, and Berlei–include 65 social posts, with total engagement (likes/comments/shares) of over 6M, averaging more than 324K per brand and 82K per post. Since 2020, Williams’ sponsored posts have averaged a total engagement of over 11M per year.

Racket Sport athletes have seen a total social engagement of more than 80M this year. Over 550 brands currently utilize these athletes in campaigns, with each brand garnering average engagement of over 140K per campaign.

While Federer’s sponsored posts since 2020 have averaged a significantly lesser total engagement of 1.4M per year, he’s focused on other promotional avenues over social media. Federer–who has the most deals among men’s tennis players by a significant margin over Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray–has starred in more than 8 commercials or marketing campaigns with brands including Rolex, On-Running, Uniqlo, and Switzerland Tourism, amongst others.

Female Athletes Dominate NIL Engagement

The evolution of “name, image, and likeness” (NIL) deals in college sports has been fast and furious since the NCAA implemented a policy in July 2021 allowing incoming and current student-athletes to earn money from endorsements. Women athletes’ dominance in audience engagement within this emerging landscape warrants a closer look, and may well compel brands that traditionally gravitate toward men’s sports to revisit their marketing strategies. 

Over the last year-plus, more than 730 brands have partnered with men in college sports–more than twice the 350+ brands that have inked deals with women. But despite female athletes’ relative lack of representation so far in the collegiate NIL space, they generate 4x the total audience engagement of male athletes, and 7x more engagement per deal. 

While men have inked over 1,000 total deals with 2,000 total social media posts–compared to the 550+ deals and 1,100 posts for women–female athletes tally a total engagement score of over 27M, versus 6.5M for male athletes. Women’s posts engage followers at nearly 8x the rate of men’s posts (48K vs. 6.3K), while their percentage of engaged followers also trumps men’s, at 5.5% vs. 4.6%, respectively. 

Women are also leading the way within each sport. While NIL deals in women’s basketball lag men’s basketball by more than 100, women’s total audience engagement numbers 5.4M, compared to 3.8M for men. Meanwhile, women’s softball athletes’ engagement on social media totals 1M–nearly 10x that of male baseball players–while their average engagement per post is 5x higher.

Olivia (Livvy) Dunne, a prolific TikToker and top gymnast at LSU, is one of the most popular athletes racking up NIL deals at the collegiate level. At 6M and counting, her staggering TikTok following exceeds that of all US college and professional athletes; Dunne currently partners with 13 brands on the app, with an average engagement of 634,683 per brand. Her total social media following of more than 8M has grown 56% in the last year, with an incredible engagement rate of nearly 9%. 

Twins Hanna and Haley Cavinder, who play basketball for the University of Miami Hurricanes after transferring from Fresno State, are also scoring big in the NIL game. They’ve promoted 15 brands on their shared TikTok page for a total engagement of 1.4M, with each branded post averaging nearly 100K engagements. In December  2021, the WWE signed 15 college athletes to a partnership starring the twins.

Apparel & Accessories Leads In NIL Deals

More than 1,000 brands have partnered with collegiate athletes in NIL deals over the last 15 months, and that number continues to be on the rise.

Through August 2022, 1,637 NIL partnerships have been inked across college sports, which collectively include 3,381 social posts. Engagement across all deals stood at 34M– averaging 20,839 per deal–while average engagement per post numbered 7,069, with 5.14% of followers engaging.

Here’s a breakdown of the top 5 industry categories in the NIL space by number of deals, with a quick look at their respective leading players.

Apparel & Accessories

  • The Players Trunk : 60% of the brand’s overall NIL partnerships are with men’s college basketball athletes. 
  • Adidas: The brand has NIL deals with athletes in 8 sports, while 51% of its NIL partnerships are with female athletes (21% women’s soccer; 15% softball; 15% women’s volleyball). 
  • American Eagle Outfitters: 46% of American Eagle Outfitters’ NIL partnerships are with college football athletes–30% of whom play for Ohio State. LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne’s 9 American Eagle Outfitters posts have racked up a total engagement of 2,333,957 so far. 

 

Technology

  • Players’ Lounge: 91% of the gaming brand’s overall partnerships are with college athletes, of which 79% are football players.  
  • Epic Games: College football players comprise 54% of the brand’s NIL partnerships are with football athletes. While female basketball players only account for 13% of its deals, University of Oregon’s Sedona Prince tops Epic’s partner list for highest total social engagement (25,489) and average engagement per post (12,745). 
  • Mercury NFT: 68% of the brand’s overall partnerships are with college athletes:  62% in men’s Basketball and 6% in football. 

 

Quick Serve Restaurants (QSR)

  • Raising Cane’s: While 42% of the chicken finger specialist’s NIL partnerships are with football athletes, the brand is the only QSR that has a partnership with a (female) wrestler–Marlee Smith (Arizona State). Football player Stetson Bennet boasts the brand’s highest total and average engagement, at 46,964 and 23,482, respectively. 
  • Krystal: 59% of the Georgia-based burger maker’s overall partnerships are with college athletes (37% football; 12% men’s basketball; 10% women’s basketball). Georgia women’s soccer player Abby Boyan is its one NIL deal outside of football and basketball. 
  • Bojangles: 27% of the chicken-and-biscuit brand’s NIL partnerships are with female athletes (23% women’s basketball; 5% softball), while 52% are with football players. 

 

Financial 

  • FTX: 65% of the brand’s NIL partnerships are with football players, while 23% of FTX’s overall partnerships are with college athletes (17% football; 6% men’s basketball). Sacramento State men’s basketball player Deshaun Highler totaled 19 posts for FTX, with a total engagement of 33,233. 
  • H&R Block: 94% of the tax prep company’s partnerships are with female athletes. South Carolina women’s basketball player Zia Cooke leads its list of athlete endorsers: 5 of her posts for the brand scored total engagement of 200,248 followers. 
  • Current: 53% of the fintech brand’s NIL partnerships are with football players. Nebraska Women’s volleyball standout Lexi Rodriguez and Arizona State women’s wrestler Marlee Smith boast Current’s top two total engagements on social, at 8,628 and 1,858, respectively. 

 

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

  • UPTIME Energy: 44% of the brand’s overall partnerships are with college softball players. It’s 1 of 6 brands (along with Magic Spoon, Champs Sports, DoorDash, DSW, and Met-Rx) to have a partnership with a men’s soccer athlete–Jared Panson of Brandeis University–and 1 of 2 non-alcoholic beverage brands (along with Rowdy Energy) to partner with a lacrosse athlete.  
  • Simple Truth: 55% of its overall partnerships are with men’s basketball players.  
  • Six Star Pro Nutrition: 24% of the brand’s total partnerships are with college basketball athletes (16% men’s; 8% women’s). It’s the only non-alcoholic beverage partnered with a (female) golfer: Stanford University’s Rachel Heck.   

 

The top 5 brands by number of deals in the NIL space are:

  1. Hooters: 40% of the brand’s overall partnerships are with college football players. One of its notable NIL deals outside the sport is with University of Arkansas golfer John Daly II, son of professional golfer John Daly.
  2. Players’ Lounge (see above)
  3. FTX (see above)
  4. Raising Cane’s (see above)
  5. Degree: The deodorant brand has deals with athletes across 11 college sports; 24% of its NIL partnerships are with female athletes.  

Across NIL Partnerships, Social Media Reigns Supreme

While many brands are singling out top players to partner with, some are casting a wider net–like Hooters, which in August signed 51 offensive linemen from 10 top college football programs.

And although brands are integrating college athletes into their marketing in various ways, social media remains the top go-to tactic for them all–utilized in over 90% of NIL partnerships.

Following is a snapshot of social engagement garnered by these deals (which average 2 posts per partnership) across college sports through August 2022. Top deals are ranked by average engagement per post, with a minimum of 3 posts. 

College Football

A perennial fan favorite, college football’s NIL deals number 598 and include 1,235 posts. Total engagement across all posts was 2.7M, averaging 4,564 per deal, while average engagement per post was 1,618, with 4.17% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Braden Galloway (Athletic Brewing Company): 22,875 
  2. Shedeur Sanders (Beats by Dre): 11,244
  3. Bryce Young (Cash App): 8,490
  4. Bryce Young (Logans Roadhouse): 6,870
  5. Bryce Young (Subway): 5,873 

Gymnastics

Despite having just 52 deals with a collective 88 posts, women’s gymnastics trumps all other college sports by social engagement, with a whopping 19M across all posts, averaging 224,327 per deal. Average engagement per post was 74,776, with 5.48% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Olivia (Livvy) Dunne (Vuori Clothing): 401,619
  2. Olivia (Livvy) Dunne (American Eagle Outfitters): 259,329
  3. Olivia (Livvy) Dunne (Bartleby Technologies): 126,714
  4. Jordan Chiles (GK Elite): 7,323
  5. Elena Arenas (Starface World): 3,688

Men’s Basketball

With a total of 328 deals spanning 635 posts, men’s basketball–another high-profile fan favorite–boasts total social engagement of 3.8M, averaging 11,710 per deal. Per-post engagement averaged 4,198, with 4.54% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Adrien Nunez (Celcius): 31,376
  2. Shareef O’Neal (Savage x Fenty): 29,448
  3. Deshaun Highler (The GLD Shop): 18,880
  4. Deshaun Highler (VKTRY Gear): 12,778
  5. Jimmy Sotos (Celcius): 8,244

Women’s Basketball

At 5.4M, women’s college basketball’s total social engagement is second only to women’s gymnastics–averaging 23,163 per deal, with 234 total deals spanning 430 posts. Average engagement per post was 8,828, with 4.51% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Hanna Cavinder (PSD Underwear): 138,537
  2. Casey Ferguson (Wingstop): 76,540
  3. Jada Williams (GymShark): 49,610
  4. Zia Cooke (H&R Block): 40,050
  5. Jada Williams (Spalding): 20,764

Baseball

Though baseball’s storied standing as one of America’s all-time favorite sports is undeniable, its following at the college level–on social media, at least–pales in comparison to others’. With 52 deals encompassing 92 posts, total engagement was just 161,000, averaging 3,100 per deal. That said, its social followers–though few in number–are devoted: per-post engagement averaged 1,119, with a whopping 9.79% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Tim Elko (Raising Cane’s): 5,381
  2. Landon Sims (J. Parkerson Jewelers): 1,753
  3. Cayden Wallace (Academy Sports + Outdoors): 1,507
  4. Taylor Young (Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys): 542
  5. Steele Netterville (Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys): 356

Softball

With 83 deals encompassing 159 posts, softball’s total engagement was 1M, averaging 12,427 per deal. Average engagement per post was 4,352, with 5.17% of followers engaging. 

Top deals:

  1. Lauren Burke (REVOLVE (Eminent): 12,736
  2. Montana Fouts (H&R Block): 5,614
  3. Jayda Coleman (Win Reality): 2,133
  4. Baylee Klingler (Outback Steakhouse): 1,176
  5. Kaley Mudge (Garnet & Gold): 1,058

LA Chargers & KC Chiefs Face Off

The AFC West matchup tonight between two potential Super Bowl contenders–the Los Angeles Chargers at the Kansas City Chiefs–features a slew of players who have taken advantage of the teams’ success by locking in endorsement deals.

KC Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has the most deals of any player in this game with 24. An avid online gamer, he partners with HyperX and Nerd Street Games, and has secured other deals thanks to his skyrocketing fame on TikTok, where his followers total more than 3M. JuJu’s branded posts on the platform include SoFi, HyperIce, Yahoo Sports, Snickers, and 7-Eleven.

LA Chargers star running back Austin Ekeler literally leads the charge for his team with more than 20 partnerships, among them SteelSeries, American Airlines, Shock Doctor, and Sleep Number. He’s leveraging his burgeoning social following–which has grown more than 70% since 2021–by posting about each partner brand, with posts and engagement totaling 81 and over 560K, respectively.  

Notably, 5 of Ekeler’s sponsors also have deals with players on the Chiefs: 

  • Sleep Number: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  • Chipotle: George Karlaftis
  • Verizon & Bud Light: Juju Smith-Schuster
  • StateFarm: Patrick Mahomes

Meanwhile, chances are top-tier quarterback talents Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert will be facing off for many years to come, both on the field and in the sponsorship arena. 

Mahomes’ 8M+-strong social following dwarfs third-year starting QB Herbert’s 500K–though Herbert’s star continues to rise, as evidenced by his following’s 55% increase this past year. And while Mahomes has more deals, his average engagement rate of 1.1% is a mere fraction of Herbert’s, which stuns at a whopping 9.86%.

Both Mahomes and Herbert have deals with Bose, which saw its highest total engagement on social media with the star quarterbacks this year. Mahomes’ top post with the audio giant, on January 27th, totaled over 330K likes/comments on Instagram, while Herbert’s January 8th Instagram post engaged more than 100K followers. Bose made noise on social media during the 2021-22 NFL playoffs, posting more than 10 times with participating players.

NFL TNF Athlete Endorsements

The NFL season kicked off in LA with a Bills win over the Rams. Checkout the NFL star’s with commercial appearances during TNF broadcast on NBC:
  • Head & Shoulders x Patrick Mahomes & Troy Polamalu
  • SiriusXM x Larry Fitzgerald
  • Frito-Lay x Josh Allen
  • Subway x Patrick Mahomes
  • Subway x Rob Gronkowski
  • SoFi x Justin Herbert
  • DirecTV x Dak Prescott, Ceedee Lamb
  • State Farm x Patrick Mahomes
  • Sleep Number x Dak Prescott
  • Little Caesars x Matthew Stafford

 

NCAA Football NIL Endorsements

The 2022 NCAA football season begins this weekend with this year’s “Week 0” games.

We highlight collegiate football athletes this year who have already amassed a large NIL endorsement portfolio.

Richmond Fall Race Endorsements

Kevin Harvick won his second-straight Cup on Sunday during the NASCAR’s Richmond Fall Race.

Harvick partners with 12 brands, including deals with Xfinity,
SubwayRheem ManufacturingCampers Inn RV, and Busch Beer.

NASCAR Endorsements

NFL Off-Season Social Data

The National Football League (NFL) is back with the first pre-season game of the 2022-23 season taking place tonight.

Which social media partnerships this offseason were the most successful ranked by average engagement per post? Swipe below to find out!

Wimbledon Endorsements

The 135th Wimbledon Championships began today, with many big names competing in the largest tennis event of the year.

We highlight the endorsement deals for the top two seeds in both Men’s and Women’s singles.