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Caitlin Clark shattered records to become the all-time scorer in women's college basketball, a feat that cements her status not just as a phenomenal athlete, but as a marketing powerhouse. With high-profile endorsements from brands like Buick, Gatorade, State Farm, Hy-Vee, and Nike, Clark exemplifies the burgeoning influence of female athletes in the realm of sports marketing. And it doesn’t stop there, her digital prowess is undeniable as well boasting a social media following that eclipses 87% of NBA players, and securing a top-five spot for brand engagement across college basketball.

Clark's dual dominance on the court and off underscores a pivotal shift in sports marketing, magnified by the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) era. Her journey is a beacon for brands and marketers, showcasing the untapped potential of female athletes and the paramount importance of authenticity and engagement in building personal brands. Her social following has grown a staggering 485% YoY showcasing her ability to not only attract those within the women’s sports industry, but over 1M people around the globe. As we celebrate Clark's historic achievements, we also embrace the broader narrative she represents: the rise of female athletes as key players in driving brand value and crafting compelling, genuine connections with audiences.

Bob Lynch, CEO of SponsorUnited, champions this evolving landscape, recognizing the transformative power of athletes like Clark in redefining sports marketing strategies. Her story of resilience and triumph isn’t just inspiring; it’s reshaping the industry's approach to partnerships. In this new era, where female athletes wield significant influence, there lies a wealth of opportunity for brands willing to engage with authenticity and innovation. View the original insights in our CEO's post here.

With the 2023–2024 college football bowl season having come to a close on January 8th with Michigan’s rousing victory over Washington in the CFP National Championship, let's take a look at the thrilling matchups and ingenious partnerships that made this postseason unforgettable.

While the activation game across all 43 matchups was strong, one of this year’s most memorable (and messy) marketing coups took place during the Duke's Mayo Bowl on December 27th, when West Virginia Head Coach Neal Brown gamely celebrated the team’s win by having a bucket of Duke's Real Mayonnaise dumped on his head. Jeff Traylor, head coach of the UTSA Roadrunners, enjoyed a similar moment during the Scooter’s Coffee Frisco Bowl, receiving a Scooter’s Coffee bath after his team defeated Marshall University’s Thundering Herd. 

But the most brilliant marketing triumph of the season—and arguably in bowl game history—was the debut (and subsequent demise) of Strawberry, the Pop-Tarts mascot, at the first-ever Pop-Tarts Bowl on December 28th. The sweet and singular sensation was unveiled with much fanfare during a pregame ceremony, springing from a giant toaster in a blaze of smoke and sparklers before pumping up the crowd prior to kickoff. 

Following Kansas State's victory, the team playfully toasted Strawberry in the same oversized toaster, from which he magically re-emerged as a life-sized, edible version for the Wildcats to nibble on during the postgame celebration—thus becoming the first edible mascot in sports history. 

In the process, the Pop-Tarts Bowl transformed a standard college football match into a viral sensation that earned the brand, owned by Kellanova, $12.1M in media exposure—and set a new standard for future bowl game sponsorship activations. 

As the 2023–24 college football bowl season—which dates back more than 120 years, to the first-ever Rose Bowl in 1902—kicks off Saturday, let’s take a closer look at the sponsorship landscape of this celebrated American athletic tradition.  

Notably, 28% of this season’s bowl game sponsors are headquartered in the matchups’ local markets, as brands like Cricket, Isleta Resort & Casino, and Quick Lane leverage the games to amplify their presence within nearby communities and connect with fans. 

Meanwhile, an intriguing 21% of brands––including Avocados From Mexico, Scooter's Coffee, and Pop-Tarts—have stepped up as new title sponsors for bowl games this year. Pop-Tarts is set to make a big splash with its first title sponsorship by unveiling an innovative edible mascot for the inaugural Pop-Tarts Bowl, taking place December 28th at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. After engaging with the crowd during the game, the tantalizing toaster pastry character will magically transform into a snack for the winning team. This singular introduction aligns with Pop-Tarts' broader strategy to intercept moments when snacking occasions meet passionate audiences, reinforcing the brand's new creative direction unveiled in July. 

While the 43-game college bowl season continues to evolve, expect to see more brands seize these unique marketing opportunities to activate in other memorable ways as they tap into the nation’s burgeoning passion for college football, whose viewership rose 12% in 2023 and 28% over the last five years. 

The University of Colorado and college football fans everywhere are newly electrified, thanks to former NFL all-pro Deion Sanders—affectionately known as Coach Prime—and his dazzling transformation of the Buffaloes into the hottest ticket in the NCAA, since becoming head coach in December 2022. Fresh off a thrilling 43–35 victory against in-state rivals Colorado State last Sunday, Coach Prime and his team are set to face off against the Oregon Ducks in what promises to be an action-packed showdown as ABC's “Game of the Week” on September 23rd. 

Having won just one game last season, the team is already 3–0—a storybook turnaround that is helping fuel the NIL valuations of Deion’s son Shedeur, the Buffaloes’ quarterback phenom, and star two-way player Travis Hunter to nearly $6M combined—the current average annual salary of an NFL QB. 

Shedeur Sanders leads NCAAF in NIL valuation with a portfolio worth a whopping $4.1M—following a meteoric $2.8M surge since the season kick-off on August 26th—and ranks second in NIL deal volume among college football players. Shedeur’s followings on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) have each increased 18% since Week 1, on the heels of 73% growth on Instagram and a doubling of his X followers in the last year. His TikTok following has also swelled 43% since the season began, translating to YoY growth of some 65%. 

Shedeur's NIL profile soared last year as quarterback at Jackson State University, where Deion—formerly JSU’s football coach since September 2020—led the team to an undefeated regular season. After adding 14 new deals to bring his roster to 17 in 2022, he’s already inked another seven NIL partnerships this year, most recently Urban Outfitters. Given his stellar start to the season, expect his NIL stable—which also includes Actively Black, Beats by Dre, Brady Brand, Gatorade, KFC, and Oikos—to only expand. 

Meanwhile, Travis Hunter’s $1.8M NIL valuation—which has spiked 20% since the season’s start as his influence grows—ranks him fourth in NCAAF and fifth by number of deals among NIL football athletes. His Instagram following has climbed 43% since Week 1—helping to nearly double his followers in the last year—while his X followers have increased 15%, propelling 87% YoY growth. He’s also steadily growing his profile on TikTok, where his following has risen 12% in the last three weeks and roughly 28% over the last year. Since Deion took the reins in Boulder, Travis has signed nine deals—Actively Black, Celsius, and Hey Dude Shoes among them–including five in 2023. 

Deion Sanders, a fabled football legend in his own right, has seen a 14% increase in Instagram followers since Week 1. Having partnered with Aflac and Gillette since 2021, he’s inked eight new deals in the past nine months with Avocados From Mexico, Blenders Eyewear, California Almonds, Chevrolet, IcyBreeze, KFC, Nike, and What If Collective. The launch of the limited-edition Blenders Eyewear x Coach Prime sunglasses collection, announced earlier this week and slated for October 12th, has already generated $4.5M in pre-orders, including $1.2M on September 17th alone. 

(Note: NIL valuation sourced by On3 Sports)

The college sports landscape has experienced a seismic shift in the last two years, thanks to the advent of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) endorsements, which were green lighted by the NCAA in July 2021. Leading the field of standouts in this ever-evolving arena:college football players, who partner with nearly 50% of the 900+ brands that inked deals with college athletes so far in 2023—a number that’s on pace to surpass the more than 1,000 brands that inked NIL deals last year.

With the college football season set to kick off this weekend, let’s take a look at three top players who are using their dazzling athletic talents to grow their personal brands off the field. 

USC’s quarterback, Caleb Williams, tops the list with an impressive 16 NIL deals—major brands like Athletic Brewing Company, AT&T, Alo Yoga, and United Airlines among them. Notably, his Instagram following has surged a remarkable 81% year over year, as his exposure has grown in step with his sponsorship portfolio–signaling the impact of his off-field endeavors in boosting his social media profile.

Nipping at Williams’ heels is dynamic Colorado quarterback, Shedeur Sanders, with 13 partnerships, including household names like KFC, Oikos, and the BRADY brand. His digital footprint has expanded significantly as well, with a whopping 105% increase in Instagram followers year over year–cementing his position as the most followed college football athlete on the platform. He's also seen a laudable 73% growth on X (formerly Twitter), a sure sign that his star is rising across all social media.  

Meanwhile, Elon defensive lineman Jon Seaton, is also an emerging force on the NIL front: his 12 endorsements include collaborations with household names like Dr. Pepper, Outback Steakhouse, and SoFi.

With the new school year just beginning, brands will no doubt be keeping an eye on other newcomers set to make waves on the NIL scene, including Blake Corum, Brock Bowers, and Marvin Harrison Jr., with 7 and 6 deals each, respectively.

SponsorUnited released its 2022-23 NIL Marketing Partnerships Report, analyzing over 2,000 deals in more than 1,000 brands. A NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) deal refers to an agreement allowing college athletes to monetize their personal brand by endorsing products or services using their name, image, or likeness.

Name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals grew 146% overall in 2022-23–having exploded since the NCAA’s landmark legislation in July 2021, allowing college student-athletes to be compensated for endorsing products and services–and they’re just getting started.

“We are witnessing a remarkable period of growth in the NIL landscape, as college athletes seize new opportunities to capitalize on their personal brands,” said Bob Lynch, Founder and CEO at SponsorUnited. “This upward trajectory reflects not only the shifting dynamics in collegiate sports, but also the eagerness of brands to engage with talented young athletes, who are emerging as influential marketing partners.”

Key findings from the report include:

College Football Reigns Supreme in NIL Deals: College football players remain at the forefront of the NIL revolution, accounting for 60% of all new deals in 2022. Their remarkable 174% growth in NIL sponsorships has outpaced that of the overall industry by 28%, demonstrating the significant impact of NIL on their earning potential and value of their personal brands.

NIL Deals Skyrocket in Women’s Basketball: NIL deals for women’s college basketball athletes grew 186% in 2022 – clocking in with the second highest percentage of new deals behind football, fueled in part by surging viewership (+11% YoY on ESPN) – compared to a 67% increase in deals for men’s basketball athletes. The average female basketball player partners with three brands, versus two for men.

Apparel & Accessories Tops the Category List Again: The top ten categories across NIL athletes–led by Apparel & Accessories–accounted for more than 70% of total sponsorships in both 2021 and 2022 – highlighting the competitive landscape of NIL deals. Quick Serve Restaurants (QSR): Hotel & Restaurant, Leisure; and Business Services are opting for more NIL deals than partnerships with major pro athletes – underscoring their confidence in the brand-building power of collegiate athlete influencers.

Twitter Loses Brands to Instagram and TikTok: Instagram’s and TikTok’s burgeoning popularity with Gen Y and Z is luring brand marketers away from Twitter. Instagram cemented its status as the top social media platform for endorsement posts – 55% of total activity, a 9% increase over 2021 – while Twitter’s turbulent 2022 saw branded posts fall 7% YoY. Though trailing Instagram by a large margin, TikTok grew its share of branded posts by 25% to 12.5%, and continues to emerge as a marketing powerhouse for brands.

Power Five Schools Net $557M in Sponsorship Revenues Allocated for Football

The SEC attracted more than 27% of the total sponsorship revenue this season

The Power Five football teams (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and the SEC) earned $557M in sponsorship revenues for the 2022-2023 season. On average, each school yielded $8.6M in sponsorship revenue during the football season.

The top five teams in terms of sponsorship revenue within the Power Five are, in no particular order, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Texas and Ohio State. The SEC (led by Alabama, Georgia and LSU) was the top conference in revenues ($156M), accounting for over 27% of total football sponsorship money spent across the 65 Power Five schools.

The categories with the most number of sponsorship deals include:

  1. Banks
  1. Restaurants
  1. Insurance
  1. Soft Drink
  1. Hotels/Resorts

The top 10 brands with the highest number of sponsorship deals include:

  1. Allstate
  1. Coca-Cola
  1. Nike
  1. Old Dominion
  1. Nissan
  1. Stubhub
  1. Ford
  1. Jersey Mike’s
  1. Pepsi
  1. Toyota

"College football provides one of the few places in sports where local and national brand partnerships converge," said Bob Lynch, founder and CEO of SponsorUnited. "In this sport, brands are able to leverage highly-relevant, multi-channel platforms–such as TV-visible signage for national broadcasts and local community events–to reach passionate fans and alumni."

With the end of the year quickly approaching, that means it's College Bowl time. 41 bowl games were announced over the weekend and will kick off mid-December. Some bowl games have histories that span decades while others have stories that are just beginning.

The Capital One Orange Bowl | Tennessee (6) vs. Clemson (10)

Capital One has been the title sponsor of the Orange Bowl since 2014. 6% of Capital One’s 560+ deals are with Division 1 Bowls, Tourneys & Championship. While they are the title sponsor of the Orange Bowl, they also have sponsorships with other college bowls like The Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Allstate Sugar Bowl to name a few.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl | Alabama (5) vs. Kansas State (11)

The Sugar Bowl, along with the Orange Bowl and Sun Bowl, are the second-oldest bowl games in the country. Allstate has been the title sponsor since 2007 and is currently the brand’s largest partnership. Close to 100 brands are buying sponsorships and media with the Sugar Bowl. No category dominates the bowl’s partnership portfolio, the top three categories- media, QSR and Auto- make up less than 30% combined.

The Rose Bowl | Utah (8) vs. Penn State (11)

"The Granddaddy of Them All" aka The Rose Bowl oldest operating college football bowl game. Capital One has been a presenting sponsor (not the title sponsor) of the previous two Rose Bowl’s. This year’s presenting sponsor will be Northwestern Mutual .

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Presented by Stifel | Fresno State vs. Washington State

Since The Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl’s inaugural season in 2021, the bowl has partnerships with 59 brands including 9 Auto brands- the largest category sponsor for the bowl- inclusive of Toyota. This bowl is 1 of Toyota’s 30 college bowl deals while it’s Stifel’s one and only college bowl partnership.

Cheez-It Bowl | Florida State (13) vs. Oklahoma

The Cheez-It Bowl, formerly known as the Camping World Bowl (2017-19), the Russell Athletic Bowl (2012-16), the Champs Sports Bowl (2004-11), has undergone several title sponsors since 1990. Cheez-It has partnered with 25 other bowl games in various capacities over the years. 25% of Cheez-It’s 110+ deals are with Division 1 Bowl games.

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.
  1. Players’ Lounge (see above)
  1. FTX (see above)
  1. Raising Cane’s (see above)
  1. Degree: The deodorant brand has deals with athletes across 11 college sports; 24% of its NIL partnerships are with female athletes.

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
  1. Shedeur Sanders (Beats by Dre): 11,244
  1. Bryce Young (Cash App): 8,490
  1. Bryce Young (Logans Roadhouse): 6,870
  1. 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
  1. Olivia (Livvy) Dunne (American Eagle Outfitters): 259,329
  1. Olivia (Livvy) Dunne (Bartleby Technologies): 126,714
  1. Jordan Chiles (GK Elite): 7,323
  1. 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
  1. Shareef O'Neal (Savage x Fenty): 29,448
  1. Deshaun Highler (The GLD Shop): 18,880
  1. Deshaun Highler (VKTRY Gear): 12,778
  1. 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
  1. Casey Ferguson (Wingstop): 76,540
  1. Jada Williams (GymShark): 49,610
  1. Zia Cooke (H&R Block): 40,050
  1. 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
  1. Landon Sims (J. Parkerson Jewelers): 1,753
  1. Cayden Wallace (Academy Sports + Outdoors): 1,507
  1. Taylor Young (Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys): 542
  1. 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
  1. Montana Fouts (H&R Block): 5,614
  1. Jayda Coleman (Win Reality): 2,133
  1. Baylee Klingler (Outback Steakhouse): 1,176
  1. Kaley Mudge (Garnet & Gold): 1,058

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.

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)

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.

March Madness #1 Seeds

The first round of the 2022 Women's NCAA Tournament starts today as the 64 teams look to make deep runs in the six-round tournament.

We highlight the partnerships and social media presence of the four #1 seeds schools: South Carolina, Louisville, Stanford and NC State.

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:

NIL deals

March Madness has arrived! The first round of the 2022 NCAA tournament begins today, as 64 collegiate teams compete to become college basketball champions.

Take a look at how the four #1 seeded teams matchup with partnerships and social presence.

March Madness #1 Seeds (3.17)

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.

Heading into March Madness, Degree has launched a “Bracket Gap Challenge” to raise awareness around the NCAA Women’s tournament. The announcement comes during International Women’s Week as the brand teamed up with WNBA star Candace Parker encouraging fans to fill out a women’s bracket. Degree has deals with female athletes in the college volleyball space as well as with Ali Kreger, soccer player for the U.S Women’s team.

In addition to Degree’s support of women and college athletes, the top two brands supporting women’s empowerment causes are Simmons Bank and Chase. This week Chase and the Golden State Warriors announced activations scheduled throughout March aimed to amplify women’s voices and to help establish an equal playing field.

Simmons Bank created a multi-university initiative with 10 schools becoming the presenting sponsor of Women’s Athletics at each. The goal of these sponsorships is to expand beyond the traditional elements of a sponsorship deal and emphasize custom programming and increased career opportunities for female student-athletes.

It's National Girls & Women in Sports Day and we are highlighting female college athletes who are leading the way in NIL endorsement deals.

Notably, the WWE has signed the Cavinder twins after the two broke into the industry July 1st signing duel NIL deals with Boost Mobile. Boost Mobile and the WWE touted their new endorsers with billboards in New York's famous Times Square. Hayley Cavinder edges out her sister Hanna, having one more deal for a total of 10.

Similar to college football athletes, Raising Cane's also targeted woman college athletes being the second most active brand signing NIL deals with woman in college athletics. Degree is currently the top brand in the space having social posts incorporated into all of their deals, while 80% of all NIL deals include social posts according to SponsorUnited'a data.

On average, every female in college sports with 1 endorsement deal actually has at least 2 deals. Over 100 brands have entered the space in the 6+ months that College NIL deals have been legal. There is still tons of opportunity for partnership growth tied to female college athletes as there's over 475 brands with Men's college athletics deals.

The 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship in Indianapolis aired on ESPN last night. More than 80 brands were visible during the broadcast where the The University of Georgia beat The University of Alabama 33 - 18.

Many familiar brands within the college space leveraged the airtime. AT&T who was seen throughout the game has over 60 deals across the NCAA. Other brands with a significant presence in the NCAA and also during the championship game broadcast were Taco Bell, Capital One, and Goodyear. These brands have 50, 30 and 10 deals across the NCAA respectively.

As the NCAA Football season comes to an end, more than 9,000 brands in over 30 categories were actively buying sponsorship or media within the NCAA since the start of the football season. TicketSmarter, Coca-Cola & Pepsi are the top three brands in terms of sponsorship deals with Allstate and Nike rounding out the top five.

NCAA Championship 2022 IR

July 2021 was a big month for college athletes. They were granted the ability to sign endorsement deals as part of the new NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) Law that was passed. NIL Endorsement deals gives student athletes the opportunity to begin making money while playing sports in college.

Apparel & Accessory brands took immediate advantage of this opportunity leading the way in total deals with college athletes. Many would assume this means Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour were signing many of these deals. Instead it was emerging brands like Rhoback, PSD Underwear, and Fanjoy which lead the way with the most endorsement deals in the Apparel & Accessory category.

More than 350 brands have signed NIL deals with college athletes. Raising Cane’s is at the top of the list. FTX follows right behind with over 10 deals in the NIL space.

Heading into tonight’s College Football Championship, here are the top four players who have signed the most deals between the two teams this season. Heisman Trophy winner and Alabama star QB, Bryce Young, has the highest social following of the four athletes. It was reported by Alabama head coach, Nick Saban, that Young was making near 7-figures in NIL deals before throwing his first pass this season. Will more brands moving forward take a shot on athletes prior to the season after seeing the success of Bryce Young?

NIL Endorsements NCAA Football Championship
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