Softball Players will have more opportunities than ever before to make money while they are at the peak of their popularity. Customers, brands, friends, and family should be excited about these new opportunities for women athletes.
On July 1, Florida and Alabama will become the first states to overrule the NCAA and have authorized athletes to make money off their name, likeness, and image — including traditional endorsements, personal appearances, and social media opportunities.
In addition, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the NCAA had violated antitrust rules and should pay student-athletes for education-related benefits, though it did not rule on broader compensation questions. It is one more step in a multiyear battle to chip away at the definition of “amateurism” used to keep collegiate athletes from making money from the sports in which they excel.
Why does this matter for women athletes?
Collegiate softball is one of the few revenue generators in College sports. According to the Department of Education, college softball teams reported $450 million in revenue in 2016-17 (the last year data has been reported). The top school listed -- Florida State (the 2018 NCAA champions) -- reported $2.2 million in softball revenues.
The popularity of college softball in general, and the Women’s College World Series in particular, is not in question. And players are at the height of their popularity while networks like ESPN and ABC make these women household names for a few months each year.
And then our favorite players graduate and are sent to the relative obscurity of professional softball when no one is sure when games are on tv or who’s playing when.
Haley Cruse, former University of Oregon Softball player, has a social media following of over 1 million followers, which she built while in college. She was featured in numerous articles on ESPN and pre-game features. Haley represented her school and program so well. But she was unfairly prohibited by the NCAA to monetize her popularity while others did.
The time has come for things to change.
What’s next for brands and fans?
We have no idea. We have been in communication with brands that are in the business of endorsement deals for athletes. They even admit that a lot has to be worked and the only analogy right now that fits the current state of endorsements for College softball players is this: it’s going to be the wild, wild west out there.
Colleges have created rules around how this process will work. Schools such as Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi State have created apps and programs to help athletes cultivate their personal brands.
Equipment and apparel brands are feverishly putting plans together to work with athletes that are poised to be the leading faces on their teams. Especially if those faces have a murky future when it comes to professional sports.
This is fantastic news for women athletes. Athletes will be able to showcase their marketability to future brands based on how they perform as endorsed athletes in college and help brands reach their coveted metric of return on investment. Competition between brands will increase opportunities and payouts to Softball athletes. The time of amateurism is ending in college sports and the net results will mean more opportunities for women athletes.
If this is your first time finding us:
The Next Season is our innovative brand ambassador program that includes a signature shoe deal, a signature apparel deal, and access to brand or career training that will help athletes get further, faster in their next business endeavors. It was created to close the opportunity gap for women athletes.
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