March Madness Driving Increased NIL Opportunities For Women

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Women’s college basketball players have been near the top when it comes to NIL deals, ranking second behind only football for total compensation by sport according to Opendorse. According to the data, women took home 18.5% of total NIL compensation through February 28, with the men coming in third behind them at 15%.

Now that it’s down to four teams, we’re seeing even more brands who want to feed off the incredible social media buzz so many of these woman are experiencing.

Global fitness brand Orangetheory Fitness will be extending an NIL offer to the woman named Most Outstanding Player in Sunday night’s women’s championship game.

“As a female-founded brand, Orangetheory Fitness has from the beginning been a champion of women in sports and fitness,” said Tammie DeGrasse-Cabrera, senior global marketing director of Orangetheory. “Most recently, we offered our studios and equipment to the NCAA Women’s Basketball team amidst weight room disparities, as well as memberships to the NCAA Softball championship teams in response to challenges the players faced during the College World Series. The new NIL policy allows Orangetheory to extend our continued support to these inspirational female athletes, which feels like a natural next step for us.”

In addition to cash compensation, Orangetheory will also bring the selected woman to its headquarters to co-develop an fitness class in partnership with VP Fitness, Scott Brown and the fitness team. The selected woman will also receive a lifetime membership to Orangetheory and access to VIP classes for her teammates and coaches.

Asked how the brand is planning for a campaign featuring an athlete whose identity they don’t know yet, DeGrasse-Cabrera said not knowing the athlete is part of the alignment for the brand.

“Orangetheory is a results-oriented, technology-tracked brand that loves to celebrate our members’ personal records and milestones, so we love the idea of celebrating the MOP vs identifying a specific athlete upfront. It’s an incredible moment for the athlete; we champion their efforts and know they are inspiring many more along the way.”

DeGrasse-Cabrera said the brand won’t be tracking traditional KPIs for this campaign, focusing instead on supporting the winning athlete and motivating its members.

“It’s not about measurement in the end game; our goal is to continue to help enrich and motivate members, and in this case, women of all ages, across the globe in their personal fitness journey.

“We feel that collaborating with a dedicated athlete who trains hard year-round and who can help put their mark on a curated workout for our members will be a special experience that our Orangetheory community will value as much as our leadership team does.”

Data from Opendorse shows women take four of the Top Five spots, and eight of the Top Ten, for highest NIL value in the Final Four based on followers and fan engagement.

Although UCONN standout Paige Bueckers, who tops the list, said she would put her NIL efforts on hold during March to focus on basketball, it’s clear she did line up at least one deal ahead of the tournament.

Bueckers is teaming up with connected learning platform Chegg, Inc. to target the issue of food insecurity for students on college campuses through Chegg.org, the nonprofit arm of Chegg. The two have teamed up with hunger relief and food recovery company Goodr to launch a free pop-up grocery market in Bueckers’s hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota during the NCAA Final Four weekend.

On April 2, the pop-up grocery market will provide 6,000 meals and is just the first of several Goodr grocery markets planned. After the tournament, Chegg.org and Paige have a goal of opening permanent free Goodr grocery stores on school and college campuses to further address the issue of food insecurity amongst America’s students.

“As a college sophomore balancing so many things, I’ve always appreciated Chegg’s commitment to meeting students where they are and supporting them in a meaningful way,” said Bueckers. “I’m thrilled to become Chegg’s first student athlete brand ambassador and for this opportunity to help in the fight against food insecurity which affects too many of my peers and 12 million kids in the U.S. While this is the first of several projects in schools with Goodr, it was really important to use the momentum we have around the tournament to raise awareness on the issue and support my hometown of Minneapolis during such an important weekend for our game.”

A report from Chegg.org found 32% of college students surveyed reported they had suffered from food insecurity since the start of the pandemic. Chegg has focused their efforts on supporting students experiencing food insecurity by raising awareness of the issues via research, supporting nonprofits, and funding local organizations providing over one million meals for individuals and students.

“We are honored to work with Paige, as she is not only an outstanding athlete but also because she uses her platform to increase access to opportunities for those around her, which is the heart of our brand,” said Dan Rosensweig, CEO & President of Chegg. “We are proud to sponsor her as our first student athlete and hope our partnership becomes a model for how companies can work with ambassadors to elevate the issues that matter to them most, as they are the issues these students see and experience every day.”

“We are proud to join Chegg and Paige and bring our pop-up grocery market to Minneapolis during NCAA final weekend,” said Jasmine Crowe, founder and CEO of Goodr. “Food insecurity among students is such a critical issue and we look forward to working with Chegg and Paige on more solutions to combat it.”

This weekend’s pop-up grocery market will be a drive-up event and will take place at the Sabathani Community Center, 310 E 38th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55409, from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM CDT. 150 families will receive free produce, meats and seafood, shelf-stable items, bread, milk, eggs, and dairy alternatives.

No doubt Bueckers will have more opportunities waiting for her in April. Her performance in Monday’s NC State vs. UConn WBB Elite Eight, where she scored 27 points in 45 minutes, with 23 of those 27 in the second half and overtime, only served to increase her value.

That game drew two million viewers on ESPN, making it the most-watched game of the 2022 women’s tournament and the best Elite Eight audience since 2006. Through the Elite Eight, viewership is up 11% on ESPN networks, with the Elite Eight round averaging 1.5M viewers, an increase of 29% from last year.

They might have been focusing on basketball in March, but come April, quite a few of the women who commanded the court will come home with opportunities to dominate the NIL marketplace.

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