Sponsor Insights

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.

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.

Music Artist Report Reveals Social Media’s Reach

SponsorUnited’s inaugural Music Artist Report, released yesterday, delivers an in-depth analysis of over 2,100 brands and 1,100 deals from July 2021-July 2022, unlocking 10 major music genres and telling the stories of nearly 600 artists. 

Here’s a peek at some of the report’s key insights: 

Country music’s most popular performers have attracted the most eyeballs across the SponsorUnited platform.

In addition, Country stars average more deals per artist than any other genre, with the number of brands partnering with them rising 45% since 2020. 

Their seemingly unstoppable momentum continues: Over 35% of SponsorUnited searches among music artists were Country, with Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Luke Combs, and George Strait ranking among the top five most searched artists.

Music artists are betting big on their own brands—and winning

Of the top 50 most engaging brands, those owned by artists garnered the most attention.Four of the top five brands with the highest social engagement were beauty brands owned by superstars: 

  • Rare Beauty (Selena Gomez)
  • JLO Beauty (Jennifer Lopez) 
  • r.e.m. beauty (Ariana Grande) 
  • Savage x Fenty (Rihanna)

Music moves fans like no other league, team or property can.

Not surprisingly, artists’ success on social media plays a key role in driving performance of their brands. When comparing per-post engagement among a variety of property types, musicians top the leaderboard with an average engagement per post of 137K, versus 100K for general celebrities in the second-place spot. 

Artist-owned companies are expanding into new categories. 

While music artists have long added value to Cosmetics, Clothing and Alcohol brands, artists like Timbaland, Kanye West and Dua Lipa are already charting the future of artist ownership in new categories:

  • Timbaland x Beatclub: The innovative digital platform aims to revolutionize the way music makers connect.
  • Kanye West x Donda Sports: Kanye’s sports marketing agency now includes clients like NBA star Jaylen Brown and NFL standout Aaron Donald.
  • Dua Lipa x Service95: Dua Lipa released her first weekly lifestyle newsletter in February 2022.

Latin artists see massive growth from global music fans.

Among the top 40 fastest growing social accounts, 12 were owned by Latin artists. Combined, these artists gained over 250M followers–2.5x more than Rap/Hip-Hop and 3.5x more than Country, and second only to Pop. With Latin music’s total revenue projected at over $1B this year, expect to see US brands continue to team up with these red-hot performers. 

Case in point: Bad Bunny, Spotify’s most streamed artist globally in 2020 and 2021. During his El Último Tour Del Mundo this year, he partnered with Airbnb to open the doors to his truck for three one-night stays for two guests at just $91 per night—a nod to his record-breaking 9.1B Spotify streams in 2021. Guests had the exclusive opportunity to explore Bad Bunny’s past, present and future, both on and off the stage.

2022 Citi Open

Nick Kyrgios won Washington’s 2022 Citi Open, his second Citi Open championship in just over three years.

Citi was the title sponsor for this event. Host sponsors included Kastle SystemsEvents DCCityRidgeEmirates and Tennis Channel.

Citi Open

Citi Open pt.2

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!

NFL Offseason Social Media Stats

The 2022 NFL offseason has provided prime opportunities for brands keen to raise their social media profile since the NFL Free agency began in March. With the preseason kicking off tonight, let’s break down the engagement numbers. 

Since March 1, more than 650 deals have been promoted on social channels across the league and its teams, totaling north of 6,400 posts thus far. With an average of 10 posts per brand, total engagement (likes, shares, or comments) across all deals tops 17.5 million, or just over 25,000 engagements per deal. 

Not surprisingly, the two leading social media partnerships were with last season’s Super Bowl rivals, the LA Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. The fact that Rams posts took four of the top 10 slots by average engagement underscores the offseason benefits reaped by brands partnering with Super Bowl champions. 

The Rams also top the list of brand deals with a 3-post minimum. The team’s partnership with Nike has tallied more than 45,000 average engagements across 7 posts, for a total of more than 315,000 followers.

Lesser-known companies like Swift Meats also were able to garner exceptional exposure in their deals with the Bengals. With 8 posts overall–which showcased the new “White Bengal” helmet, debuting this year–Swift Meat’s total engagement stands at 250,000, an average of just over 31,000 per post. 

Rounding out the top 5 most successful social media partnerships from the Draft through July 31st were the Atlanta Falcons and Coca-Cola, the New York Giants and Invisalign, and the Denver Broncos and Chevron, respectively. With a minimum of 3 posts, each saw per-post engagement of more than 20,000 followers.

29 Recording Artists Join the 100M+ Follower Club

Social media’s power as a brand-building tool is indisputable–especially in the music industry. According to SponsorUnited’s latest data, 29 recording artists have at least 100 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook–accounting for a whopping 6.2 billion cumulative follows. 

Selena Gomez tops the list with nearly 525 million followers. Despite her staggering fan base, her 6 endorsement deals pale in comparison to Snoop Dogg (160+ million followers), whose singular charisma has helped him ink 17 partnerships. He starred in Super Bowl commercials for BIC and Pepsi last February, while his February 23rd Instagram post with another partner, Crooks & Castles Clothing, engaged 1.2 million followers–topping his long list of branded social posts. 

Katy Perry cracks the top-five in both social followers and endorsement deals. Sixteen brands have leveraged Perry’s social media following over the last 12 months, totaling more than 100 posts, while her total engagement is an impressive 17.8 million, with an average 1.1 million followers per brand. Her January 2nd Instagram post with Resorts World Las Vegas netted 890K engagements, her highest-ever tally on the channel. 

Latin music artist J Balvin takes the third spot on the endorsement list behind Perry, with 15 deals and a social following of 110 million. His customized-shoe partnership with Jordan Brand spurred a huge pop on his social media page with an engagement of over 1.5 million–more than 10% of his total engagement across 46 posts. Fortnite is Balvin’s most-promoted brand on social media by number of posts: his 10 with the online game have a total engagement of 3.5 million.

Social Media Influencers = Powerful Marketing

Partnering with influencers on leading social media platforms has become a strategic way for brands to build equity and reach completely new audiences. As Cara Stucker, SponsorUnited’s senior manager of endorsements, explains, “The thing about influencer marketing is, all brands can do it. Working with influencers allows brands extreme flexibility–whatever the budget, target audience, campaign length or type of media, influencers will make it happen.”

UPDATE: Earlier today, news broke of a new partnership with Khaby Lame. Binance has signed Lame as their newest brand ambassador to grow the Binance ecosystem leveraging the power of Lame’s social media. Binance announced the partnership via their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Here’s the list of top influencers (by number of followers) tracked in the SponsorUnited database, and their top three brand deals across all social media channels.

TikTok:

1. Khaby Lame – 144.4M
Hugo Boss, Amazon Prime Student, Disney

2. Charli D’Amelio – 142.8M
Step, Morphe, Takis

3. Bella Poarch – 90.3M
Cash App, Moncler, HyperX

4. Addison Rae – 88.1M
ITEM Beauty, American Eagle Outfitters, Vital Proteins

5. Zach King – 68.8M
Credit Karma, Amazon, Google (Alphabet)

Instagram:

1. Khaby Lame – 78.4M

2. Larissa Machado (Anitta) – 62.7M
adidas, Samsung, Sol de Janeiro

3. Whindersson Nunes – 58.5M
Subway

4. Huda Kattan – 50.6M
ASOS, Sephora, Harrod’s

5. Lele Pons – 49M
Adore Me, PUBG

Twitter:

1. Whindersson Nunes – 25.4M

2. Ruben ‘El Rubius’ Doblas – 19.3MM
Amazon Prime Student, Paco Rabanne, Drift Gaming

3. AuronPlay (Raul Alvarez) – 15.9M
Fanta, LG Electronics, Amazon Prime Video

4. Cameron Dallas – 14.8M
boohooMan, Ralph Lauren, Crypto Demonz

5. Felipe Neto – 14.5M
N/A

Facebook:

1. Noel Arevalo – 74.7M
Inno Supps, Fashion Nova

2. Alexandra Mary Hirschi (Supercar Blondie) – 47M
VinFast, Driver Ape Racing Club, Xbox

3. Dhar Mann- 28M
N/A

4. Kayla Itsines – 28M
sweat, iFit, P.E. Nation

5. Luisito Comunica – 23M
Rey Palomo, Gran Malo, Deigo CDMX

*The nine categories considered when pulling data: beauty/fashion, fitness, food/travel, kids/family, pet, reality tv, tech/science, esports, and other social media influencers. 

Jocelyn Alo Endorsements | World Softball Day

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.

To celebrate World Softball Day, let’s take a look at her NIL and social game.World Softball Day Jocelyn Alo (1)

NBA Playoff Appearance Strengthen Social Media Experience

This year, the 16 NBA playoff teams saw a 12.5% increase in social media followers while non-playoff teams saw a 5% growth. Is this due to more time in the limelight or because their markets are home to the best players in the league?

Of the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, the Chicago Bulls rank highest in the NBA in terms of social media followers, with nearly 30M and ranked #4 in the league. Interesting to note that of the eight teams, five rank #1 in their market in terms of social followers.

With superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Brooklyn Nets have the highest average engagement rate per post while the Boston Celtics have the highest total engagement. As defending champions, the Milwaukee Bucks have the most social deals, 55 unique brands to be exact. While the Atlanta Hawks have less social deals but the highest number of branded posts, with over 2,300 already this season..

Now onto the Western Conference teams. Four of the eight teams rank #1 in social media followers in their market while all eight teams are at least top three in their respective markets. To no surprise,, the Golden State Warriors rank highest amongst the crew in social follower rank within the NBA landing at #3. The Utah Jazz had the highest YoY growth with a 29% increase.

The Warriors take the title for having the highest average engagement rate as well as total engagement of over 50M. This separates them from the pack by a landslide, the Mavericks come in 2nd with a total engagement of just over 8M.