Paige Bueckers is one of the most recognizable college athletes — male or female.
That’s a result of her talent, yes. The University of Connecticut star earned recognition as the Naismith Player of the Year last year. But it’s also in part due to the brand she’s been able to build around herself since her days as a high school basketball standout.
No one likes women’s sports? Tell that to Bueckers’ combined 1.25 million followers across Instagram and TikTok — give or take a few thousand.
As of Wednesday, the footwear and apparel marketplace StockX will get to benefit from her first major NIL deal. And this type of endorsement might shape the way other female athletes who come after her sign sponsorship deals.
StockX, co-founded by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, signed Bueckers to a multi-year deal that will allow her to help design exclusive products and collaborate with third-party brands. She won’t be limited to any shoe or apparel company exclusively.
By allowing for that, Bueckers can continue to work with different corporations until the inevitable bidding war for who gets her exclusive shoe endorsement on the court when she begins her professisonal career.
“We’re committed to providing a platform for female athletes to not only showcase their personal style, interests, and values but also to amplify their voices and connect with their communities,” said Deena Bahri, StockX chief marketing officer.
The structure is a smart move for StockX, too.
The WNBA and women’s sports in general have grown in popularity as more and more athletes build their own following on social media — even if that sport isn’t traditionally highlighted by major sports media outlets.
Coincidentally, but perhaps not directly correlated to that timeline, sales of women’s exclusive sneakers “outpaced the overall market” by 80%, according to StockX, with high-value retro and lifestyle sneakers being worn by an increasing amount of women in recent years.
Essentially, influencer marketing has helped brands realize there is real value in signing female athletes. Especially considering women drive a majority of purchasing power.
As part of the deal, StockX intends to collect and distribute data and analytics to validate that hunch — that these women generate interest and impact sales for potential partners.
It may not be traditional, from a sports sponsorship lens. But the method is tried and true.