Women's gymnastics final showcase top athletes and NIL earners
The GIST: College women’s gymnasts are sticking the landing on and off the mat. This weekend’s NCAA national championships not only showcased women’s gymnastics’ credentials as one of college sports’ hottest rising properties, but also its top female athletes and name, image and likeness (NIL) earners.
The details: Atop the female athlete NIL valuation list is LSU’s Olivia Dunne, who has a projected annual earning potential of $3.5M, thanks to her 11M+ social media followers. Behind her in second place is Auburn’s Suni Lee, who, despite retiring from college athletics, boasts yearly earning potential of $1.4M.
- Dunne and Lee also top the list of female gymnasts by NIL valuation, while UCLA’s Jordan Chiles ($359K), Oregon State’s Jade Carey ($238K), and Utah’s Grace McCallum ($191K) round out the top five.
The context: Despite only raking in 1% of all NIL compensation, women’s gymnastics is a quiet NIL powerhouse. Female gymnasts averaged $7K per deal in the first year of NIL, outpacing the $1.8K average for all athletes and $3.4K average for football players. The gals also collected 44% of transaction value for all female athletes.
- Advertisers are also pouring sponsorship dollars into women’s gymnastics broadcasts. ESPN sold 83% of its ad inventory this season, 91% for last Thursday’s NCAA semis, and 100% for last Saturday’s championship. A near-perfect routine.
- By buying into women’s gymnastics, sponsors can tap into a sizable audience. ESPN earned 95M social media impressions in the buildup to last year’s championship, which averaged almost 1M viewers on network TV.
Zooming out: Women’s gymnastics is making its case for more investment, especially from broadcasters. Increased airtime could be a smart next step due to the sport’s ability to draw audiences and advertisers. The sport’s success could also alter the NCAA’s calculus as it considers if and how to split its $500M championship broadcast bundle.
- It may be too soon for the NCAA to mull over cleaving women’s gymnastics from the championship package, but the sport certainly makes the bundle more attractive even if women’s March Madness goes solo.