Mar 24, 2022 - Sports

Two biggest March Madness social media stars are women

Data: Opendorse; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

This is the first March Madness of the NIL era, meaning athletes can monetize their fame during one of the biggest sporting events of the year.

State of play: Social media has been the most lucrative channel for athletes since the NIL era began in July, per marketing platform Opendorse. 34% of compensation has come from posting content, well ahead of signing something (18%) and licensing rights (14%).

By the numbers: UConn's Paige Bueckers and Louisville's Hailey Van Lith have the highest social media earning potential among Sweet 16 players, per exclusive data from Opendorse, and women's players make up 11 of the top 20 athletes.

  • Super sophomores: Bueckers ($62,900) and Van Lith ($44,200) have by far the highest social media post value, which is calculated using metrics like followers, engagement, school and sport.
  • Freshmen phenoms: Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren ($10,400) and Duke's Paolo Banchero ($9,000), top five recruits and projected top five NBA draft picks, rank third and fourth, respectively.

The big picture: Women's basketball players have earned 19% of all compensation during the NIL era, per Opendorse, trailing only football players (51%) and ahead of men's basketball players (15%).

The backdrop: The NIL landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace. A football recruit reportedly got a $8 million contract earlier this month, and Adidas just announced that all athletes at its 109 D-I schools can become paid brand ambassadors.

  • Drew Timme is starring in TV ads for a casino located 10 miles from Gonzaga's campus as the Bulldogs chase a title. Talk about a sign of the times — a college athlete promoting gambling.

The bottom line: The NCAA will earn nearly $900 million from this year's March Madness. For the first time, the players who make that possible can also profit.

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