March Madness 2022: Women's and men's Sweet Sixteen players are heavily involved in NIL deals

ByKelly Cohen ESPN logo
Friday, March 25, 2022

It's been less than a year since the NCAA said college athletes could profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL) -- and college basketball stars have been signing deals left and right ever since. That includes several athletes in the Sweet 16 of the men's and women's NCAA tournaments.

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According to data from Opendorse, women's basketball players have earned the second-most compensation of all NIL deals (19%), only behind college football players (51%) and ahead of men's college basketball players (15%).

And it makes sense. The 2021 women's NCAA title game between Stanford and Arizona drew 4.1 million viewers -- the most since 2014. This year, the women's tournament finally has the same branding as the men's. Viewership is up 15 percent through the first two rounds, and the second round jumped 25 percent over 2021, according to ESPN PR.

The Sweet Sixteen has its share of significant endorsements on both the women's and men's side.

Paige Bueckers

Bueckers, a star point guard for UConn, signed her first endorsement deal with footwear and apparel marketplace platform StockX in November 2021. According to a company spokesperson, the multi-year deal means she will become "the centerpiece" of StockX's upcoming focus on women's sports and basketball.

A few weeks later, she became the first college athlete to sign an endorsement deal with Gatorade.

Bueckers, who also has a deal with CashApp, filed a trademark for "PAIGE BUCKETS" last year through the Wasserman agency, which represents her.

Sasha Stefanovic and Trevion Williams

The Purdue Boilermaker seniors both have sponsorship deals with VIDSIG and Cameo, apps that allow for the purchase of personalized video messages.

Stefanovic also has paid partnerships with Napleton Italian Car Imports in Indianapolis and Dutch Farms, a Chicago-based dairy and deli company.

Christyn Williams

Williams, a guard at UConn, is sponsored by two of the most typical college student brands.

In addition to posting sponsored content by Maruchan Ramen, Williams also has posted content in collaboration with Wings Over -- a favorite for lovers of chicken wings and tenders -- and vitamin maker Goli Nutrition.

Drew Timme

The Gonzaga star is infamous for his mustache -- so it's no surprise that he has a sponsorship deal with Dollar Shave Club.

Timme also has his own merchandise, a deal with Walker's Furniture & Mattress in Washington and Northern Quest, a casino in Spokane.

Azzi Fudd

Another UConn star, Fudd is looking to follow in Stephen Curry's shoes. Fudd signed to be part of his SC30 Inc. brand, the athlete-run organization which handles Curry's off-court business.

"As I continue to focus on becoming the best player and student I can be while in college, I also look forward to broadening my understanding of business and life beyond basketball," Fudd said in December. "This partnership with Steph and his SC30 team will help me do that. I'm really excited about everything we'll do together in the future."

Fudd has also posted sponsored content by Chipotle and Bartleby, an online homework helper.

Paolo Banchero

A projected top-three NBA Draft pick (ESPN+), Banchero recently signed a deal with Yahoo Sports to support their March Madness fantasy tournament. Banchero, Duke's leading scorer, also has sponsorship deals with nBA2K, Panini Trading Cards and JD Sports, a British sportswear company.

Aliyah Boston

The South Carolina All-American confirmed her first endorsement deal with Bojangles, a fast-food chain based in Charlotte, NC and popular in the Carolinas, in August.

The center also has sponsorships with Crocs and Bose.

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