Iowa women’s basketball player Caitlin Clark is quickly becoming one of the most (financially) valuable players in the women’s league.
- With new laws allowing college players to make money off of endorsement deals, they have more opportunities than ever to make money off of their sport.
- During the women’s March Madness tournament, Clark led her team to the Final Four, where she scored 41 points, had 12 assists, and 10 rebounds in the semi-final game.
- Her exceptional talent and a proclivity for smack talk on the court have led to a growing social-media following, making her brand especially lucrative for endorsement deals.
- Clark made at least $1 million from Name Image and Likeness (NIL) deals—and all of that before signing with Nike, ESPN reports.
- The rising star has also received sponsorship deals from well-known brands like Topps, Goldman Sachs, H&R Block, supermarket Hy-Vee, and apparel company The Vinyl Shop, MarketWatch reports.
Why it’s news
Since 2021, college players have been able to make money off of brand endorsements. While some well-known players can secure millions in lucrative deals, others can make several hundred dollars.
Becoming a well-known figure is key to securing lucrative endorsement deals. Clark’s Instagram following grew from 151,000 to 484,000 in just a few months. Since gaining more followers, the basketball player has posted sponsored content from big brands like Buick and Bose.
But Clark’s growing popularity is not just a financial win for her—it is bringing more viewers to women’s basketball. Iowa’s Final Four semi-final victory against Louisville had around 2.5 million viewers, Yahoo Sports reports. For the NCAA hosting the tournament, more viewers mean more potential revenue from advertisers.
The 2.5 million viewers surpassed any NBA game viewership this season. The most-watched NBA game was the New York Knicks versus the Boston Celtics, which gained 2.24 million views.
Clark’s rising popularity will undoubtedly make her a more valuable player as she progresses through her college basketball career. She is a true junior and will not be eligible for the WNBA draft until she turns 22 next year. Even then, Clark may return for a fifth year at Iowa.
The current highest salary in the WNBA is $252,000. Clark’s lucrative million-dollar endorsement deals may convince her to remain at Iowa for a fifth year.
Backing up a bit
The women’s NCAA basketball tournaments are gaining larger audiences, resulting in significant exposure on network TV for the first time in 28 years.
After a 16% rating increase during last year’s tournament, the women’s NCAA final appeared on ABC. All ad slots for the final sold out before the game, The Hustle reports.
With more viewership may come more money. ESPN is reportedly considering selling women’s tournament rights separately next year, something it already does for the men’s games. At the same time, professional women’s basketball has also received higher ratings.
Over the last several years, sports broadcasting rights have become increasingly valuable. With increased revenue, professional women’s teams could also see a higher pay rate.