Caitlin Clark is one of the top stories of the 2023 NCAA March Madness basketball tournaments.
Clark led the Iowa Hawkeyes to its first Final Four appearance in 30 years, and has done so in dramatic fashion. She had 41 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in Iowa’s latest win over Louisville on Sunday, the first 40-point triple-double in women’s or men’s March Madness history (a triple double is when a player gets double-digits in at least three of the major categories in a game like points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks).
With her exceptional performances on the court — along with some viral smack-talking — Clark continues to gain immense popularity that is already leading to big paydays.
For one, Clark has 263,000 Instagram followers (up from 151,000 six months ago), and has posted sponsored content to her followers in conjunction with brands like Buick and Bose during Iowa’s March run at the national championship.
Clark and other college athletes have been able profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL) since 2021, when the NCAA changed its policies.
From the archives: Women could make more money than men on NIL deals
Her sponsored Instagram posts are not the only way Clark is leveraging her meteoric rise to financial success. In the past, she has agreed to sponsorship deals with West Des Moines-based and female founded apparel company The Vinyl Shop, a midwest supermarket chain called Hy-Vee, H&R Block
and Goldman Sachs
ESPN reported that Clark made at least $1 million from her NIL deals prior to signing with Nike last October.
“There is no question that Caitlin Clark has been the brightest star of March Madness,” Michael Ehrlich, head of athlete engagement at influencer marketing platform MarketPryce, said to On3 this week.
“She should be at the top of any brand’s potential athlete partner wish list,” he continued.
Women’s basketball ranks behind only football and men’s basketball in total NIL compensation, according to data from NIL company Opendorse, a technology company that connects athletes with brands.
“I’ve been super-selective,’’ Clark has said about choosing which NIL deals to commit to. “Obviously, I don’t have the time to do many things. I always try to partner with bigger companies that are usually long-term deals. They align with my values and who I am as a person.
Clark’s huge game against Louisville last week drew 2.5 million viewers on ESPN, which was higher than the ratings for of any NBA game on the channel this season. The closest NBA viewership number for ESPN this basketball season was 2.14 million when the New York Knicks played in Boston against the Celtics on March 5, according to ShowBuzzDaily.com.
“I dreamed of this moment as a little girl, to take a team to the Final Four and be in these moments and have confetti fall down on me,” Clark said after the game.
Clark accolades include being a two-time All-American, and three-time gold medalist in international competitions, and on Wednesday she was named the 2023 Naismith Women’s Player of the Year.
No. 2 seed Iowa will take on last year’s player of the year Aliyah Boston and her No.1 seeded South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday night at 9 p.m. EST.
But not everybody is loving the new NIL rules in college athletics. During a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce heard testimony from college administrators, a current college softball player, and a university president on problems with today’s NIL rules.
“The current NIL chaos means student-athletes are left to fend for themselves,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington’s fifth district. “And those at the top of their game must figure out how to maneuver through a multiple of agents, collectives and high dollar contract offers all while maintaining their academic and athletic commitments.”