Paige Bueckers of UCONN Huskies Signs with Gatorade

Paige Bueckers of UCONN Huskies Signs with Gatorade
Image © David Butler II / USA TODAY Sports
✍️ Written by
Alicia Butler
🗓 Updated
Aug 23rd 2023

Now that the NCAA’s policy on not allowing student-athletes to sign sponsorship deals with companies has been reversed, plenty of athletes are finally making bank on their names, images, and likenesses.

And while some major deals have been signed since the Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA’s policy violated antitrust laws, one deal seems to have outshined the rest.

Paige Bueckers, a point guard for the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team, has recently signed a deal with Gatorade — making her the first student-athlete to sign with the sports drink company.

Who is Paige Bueckers?

Paige Bueckers (pronounced Beckers) is a point guard for the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team. She’s a highly decorated player who has competed not only at the college level — but also at the national youth level.

She was an All-American during her first season at UConn, making her the first freshman to earn a major national college player of the year award. She has won three gold medals with the U.S. Youth Olympics team, was named most valuable player at the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup, and was named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year in the same year.

She helped the UConn Women’s Huskeys get to the 2021 NCAA Final Four.

The Wallstreet Journal estimated that Bueckers could make $1 million annually from sponsorship deals.

Is it legal for college athletes to sign sponsorship deals?

Yes! Yet, until recently, it was illegal to do so.

Last June, the Supreme court voted 9-0 that NCAA restrictions on “education-related benefits” for college student-athletes were in violation of antitrust law. In July, the NCAA approved a policy that allowed college athletes to use their image and likeness (and more importantly receive compensation for doing so).

These laws were enacted in seven states, and federal legislation will develop its own rules for college athletes being paid to use their name, likeness, and image (NIL).

College athletes and recruits are now able to make money off their autographs, endorsements, and personal appearances — as long as they aren’t in violation of state laws in doing so. It’s up to each university to determine whether students and recruits are acting within the confines of state laws.

In states that don’t have official NIL laws, students will also be allowed to be compensated for companies using their name, image, and likeness as well.

Does Bueckers have any other sponsorship deals?

Yes! Bueckers does in fact have other sponsorship deals.

While the Gatorade deal is by far the most exciting (and the company with the most brand recognition), Bueckers’s first sponsorship deal straight out of the gate was signed with ​​StockX, an online streetwear marketplace.

StockX and Bueckers’s three-year deal was announced on the brand’s Instagram page with the following statement:

“She’s an innovator, a world-class athlete, and a passionate advocate for community representation. @paigebueckers is all about making the right pass and getting others the shine they deserve. We’re proud to welcome her to the team as her first brand partner and one of the first multi-year partnerships under the new NIL rules.”

What makes an athlete likely to snag a sponsorship?

While there’s no tried-and-true formula as to whether a college athlete will score a sponsorship deal, most marketing experts agree that the probability of an athlete going pro is a good indicator of whether or not they’ll be offered a sponsorship deal.

Tim Derdenger, a sports marketing and branding expert and professor at Carnegie Mellon University told CBS MoneyWatch, "The speed at which companies went after these athletes was shocking. I mean, I knew it was going to happen eventually, but we're only three weeks in."

It’s not only individual players that are cashing in on the new NIL laws, either. Many deals that have already been signed have been for entire teams or sets of players, such as defensive linemen.

CBS News guessed that an athlete’s probability of going pro will be a likely determinate of whether or not they’ll get a lucrative deal.

Beyond Paige Buckers and the UConn Huskies: College athlete sponsorships are big business

It’s estimated that there are more than 460,000 NCAA student-athletes.

Between major and local brands, there are plenty of possible athletic sponsorships to go around. While the athletes that score deals with major brands, such as Gatorade and Boost Mobile will obviously get the most press, other local deals can also be lucrative for student-athletes, too.

Since student-athlete brand recognition is highest within the athlete’s home state and the state where the college operates, local brands have the ability to boost their marketing power, too.

Just a few local brands that have inked deals with student-athletes include Smoothie King and Wright’s Barbecue.

College Athletes (and Hopefuls) With Sponsorship Deals

Obviously, Buecker isn’t the only athlete that’s cashing in on the recent reversal of the NCAA’s rules. Since there are hundreds of thousands of student-athletes currently playing basketball, football, soccer, baseball, and more, there have been plenty of other high-profile deals.

Haley and Hanna Cavinder

Fresno State women’s basketball players (and twins) Haley and Hanna Cavinder have also cashed out on their own deals with Boost Mobile — another one of the biggest brands to partner with student-athletes.

Back in July, the two made big names for themselves by signing their deal with Boost Mobile and sports supplements manufacturer Six Star Pro Nutrition.

It’s estimated that the twins could rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in sponsorship deals — but their fame didn’t start with their deals.

The sisters have become TikTok famous after posting videos to quell their boredom during quarantine. They boast 3.4 million followers on the platform.

Myles Brennan

Louisiana State University quarterback Myles Brennan has scored a deal with Smoothie King.

This company hails from the neighboring southern state of Texas (though it’s currently owned by a South Korean company) and has locations across the country.

Brennan has also signed deals with local businesses, including Hollingsworth Richards Ford, a Baton Rouge, LA, car dealership. The deal was announced with a video of Brennan receiving a new truck from the dealership and saying, “Today, Myles is getting a 2021 F-250 Diesel FX4.”

The quarterback has also announced a deal with Smalls Sliders, a burger restaurant with two locations in Baton Rouge, LA.

Mitch Lightfoot 

Another deal with a major brand was scored by Mitch Lightfoot, power forward for Kansas University’s men’s basketball team. Lightfoot signed a deal with 1-800-Got-Junk.

The deal was announced on the first day it became legal for college athletes to receive compensation for their names, images, and likenesses.

WIBW in Topeka, KS, reported that Lightfoot stated regarding his partnership with 1-800-Got-Junk, “After being voted as the player with the messiest locker, I figured it was only fitting to have my first partnership be with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?” Lightfoot tweeted. “Can’t wait to help bring their multitude of services to the entire Kansas City area! #gimmethatjunk #ad”

The University of Arkansas Football Team

Several offensive linemen who play for the University of Arkansas football team have struck a deal with a local Arkansas restaurant, Wright's Barbecue.

University of Notre Dame Offensive Line

It seems as though football teams’ offensive lines making deals sith restaurants (particularly barbecue restaurants) has become something of a fad.

The University of Notre Dame’s entire offensive line signed a deal with Maryland barbecue restaurant, Mission BBQ.

Recruits Endorsement Deals

It isn’t only players that have started signing endorsement deals with companies, either. Recruits are even getting endorsement deals — some of them signing the deals before they even stepped foot on a college sports field or court.

While we know of several deals between brands and college student-athletes, we don’t generally know how much a deal is worth. This isn’t the case for Hercy Miller, a basketball player at Tennessee State University — that signed his deal before he even started playing.

Miller was just an incoming student and player when he signed a $2 million deal with Web Apps America, a tech company. This is huge, considering Buecker is only suspected of taking home hundreds of thousands of dollars each year — and she’s signed on with one of the biggest names in sports.

Hercy Miller was named one of ESPN’s top 100 recruits of 2021, which is probably why the deal was so huge.

Nick Saban, University of Alabama football coach stated that Bryce Young, the university’s quarterback, has already been approached by companies, too. Saban said that the deals were nearly seven figures. And that he was approached before he even started playing for the season.

It’s only been about six months since the Supreme Court ruling, and the deals just keep getting bigger and better. Who knows what’s to come in the coming months — especially as football season comes to an end and the NCAA basketball finals are just around the corner.

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