Women Cashing In: The 5 Top NIL Women Athletes



May 9 2024, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals changed the world of college sports on July 1, 2021. With NIL deals, student-athletes are empowered to profit from promoting companies as they build their brands. A few women athletes are surging to the top as brands seek more avenues to market their products and services.

What kinds of NIL deals exist?

According to As USA, NIL deals range in activity that includes the following:

  • Accepting direct payments for promotional activities
  • Receiving free or sponsored products in exchange for promotion
  • Receiving free or sponsored services in exchange for promotion
  • Earning affiliate money from social media promotion
  • Becoming an ambassador for a brand or business
  • Appearing in commercials, ads, and digital content
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Controversy with NIL Deals

The NIL market is estimated to be worth $1 billion annually.  An assessed 80% of NIL funds come from nonprofit collectives, and donations to these collectives are tax-deductible. Nonprofits pay athletes for their charity work. That said, eyebrows have been raised regarding the money used to pay athletes. Some believe the money should go to a more direct charitable distribution.

Are women earning as much as men in NIL deals?

According to SponsorUnited’s NIL Marketing Partnerships 2023/24 report, women athletes made up more than half (52%) of a list of college athletes with the most number of name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals during the 2023/24 season—an increase from 38% year-on-year. While women make more deals, they still earn less money overall.

Here are the top-earning NIL women college athletes and how much they make from endorsement deals. 

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1. Livvy Dunne

LSU Gymnastics

Earnings: $3.7 million

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Livvy Dunne has garnered a massive social media presence with her engaging personality. Aside from helping her make deals, her content encourages followers to take care of their mental health.

2. Caitlin Clark

Iowa Basketball

Earnings: $3.1 million

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Caitlin Clark is the new all-time leading scorer in college basketball history with 3,685 career points. Pete Maravich is the previous record holder with 3,667 points.

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3. Angel Reese

LSU Basketball

Earnings: $1.8 million

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Angel Reese was named the 2024 SEC Player of the Year. Reese is passionate about serving her community and has participated in various volunteer initiatives.

4. Sunisa Lee

Formerly part of Auburn Gymnastics

Earnings: $1.3 million

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Sunisa Lee is an Olympic medalist. In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she won an individual gold, silver, and bronze medal and a team silver.

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5. Flau’jae Johnson

LSU Basketball

Earnings: $1.2 million

Passionate about community service, Flau’jae Johnson was named to the 2024 SEC Community Service Team. The daughter of rapper Camoflauge, off the court, Flue’jae is also a rapper and songwriter.

Some brands that have utilized student-athletes in marketing campaigns are Purina, Nike, Gatorade, Reebok, and PlayStation. Many notable beauty brands, especially Black-owned brands, have also tapped student-athletes as ambassadors.

NIL endorsement deals have empowered women athletes in college to build personal brands and relationships with companies that can follow them into their professional careers. NIL deals are still relatively new and have lots of room to grow to be more equitable for student-athletes who play college sports.

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By: Wanda Duncan

Wanda Duncan is a multipotentialite entrepreneur and travel and wellness writer. She’s slow traveled since 2010 through Europe, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa and Central America. Find her work in Fodor’s Travel, HerAgenda, and WeTravel. Wanda is the founder of Black Women Travel and won the Women in Travel Summit 2023 Bessie Awards Social Impact Award and was nominated for the 2021 Trailblazer Award. Connect with Wanda through her website

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