On3 Survey: Women make up average of 23% of NIL collectives' partners

On3 imageby:Andy Wittry04/27/23


On3 conducted a voluntary name, image and likeness survey that received responses from 23 collectives and found that the groups examined have worked with an average of 17 female athletes this academic year, who make up an average of nearly 23% of the total athletes with whom those collectives have partnered.

In an attempt to try to quantify how many opportunities collectives are providing to women, On3 offered more than 60 collectives nationally the opportunity to participate in the survey. They were provided the chance to share the number of female athletes with whom they’ve partnered in the 2022-2023 school year and/or the percentage of the partner athletes from this school year who are women.

Some collectives sign agreements with their athletes, while others help facilitate paid partnerships.

Six collectives that provided On3 with data for the survey haven’t worked with any female athletes this school year.

The Oklahoma-focused collective Crimson and Cream has signed 74 female athletes this academic year, which is the most among the survey respondents. ONEArkansas NIL has partnered with 59 female athletes across six athletic programs at Arkansas, including 17 gymnasts, 16 volleyball players and 12 basketball players.

“The opportunities are endless,” said ONEArkansas NIL associate director Will Landreth.

TrueNU has worked with 48 women at Northwestern, and Success With Honor has partnered with 42 at Penn State. Cav Futures (Virginia) and 901 Fund (Memphis) have each worked with 22 women.

Twenty of the 23 athletes, or almost 87%, who have signed with the Creighton-focused collective Heart Mind Soul are women, which was the highest percentage among the collectives examined that support both men and women.

Female athletes make up between one-third and one-half of the athletes who have partnered this year with Connecticut‘s Bleeding Blue For Good (50%), Ohio State‘s Cohesion Foundation (42%), ONEArkansas NIL (41%), TrueNU (40%) and West Virginia‘s Country Roads Trust (37%), the last of which provided its total data since it launched in January 2022.

Looming question about collectives, Title IX

Unlike the institutions they support, collectives aren’t required to follow Title IX, which is part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding.

However, there has been a looming question about whether institutions could violate Title IX if they promote or partner with a collective through their multimedia rights partner but the collective only, or overwhelmingly, supports male athletes.

“Title IX has been a conversation from the beginning and I think the longer it goes and the longer NIL exists and the more collectives exist, the louder the question gets, right?” said Clay Presley, a member of the 901 Fund, which recently expanded from supporting Memphis football and men’s and women’s basketball players to athletes from any of its 18 athletic programs. “And so I would say we stay kind of plugged into the national conversation as does the university’s athletics staff, so it’d be silly to say you don’t talk about Title IX but this was always something that we wanted to do.”

The Drake Group published a position statement in October 2021 on the potential Title IX-related issues involving collectives and Iowa athletic director Gary Barta addressed it in an open letter last winter.

It’s a topic that still resonates today, and the NCAA could potentially use it in its lobbying efforts for federal legislation that pertains to NIL rights.

“The Office of Civil Rights would say right now that if a collective is affiliated … with a college or university then they need to be spending as much money on women’s sports as they spend on men’s sports and as much money on women athletes as they spend on men athletes,” NCAA President Charlie Baker said Monday.

NIL deals with women: ‘Really differentiated us’

Cohesion Foundation founder and president Gary Marcinick said the collective has signed 22 female athletes at Ohio State and there are agreements with 20 more women that are in the works.

Similar to many schools nationally, several collectives support Ohio State, including another nonprofit organization The Foundation and The 1870 Society, which is a for-profit collective that recently launched. The Foundation’s executives market it as the “No. 1 collective for Ohio State football and basketball.”

“It really has differentiated us in a major way,” Marcinick said. “We’ve gotten such great feedback from so many people. You know, so many people appreciate our intentionality around that to make sure we’re trying to do something pretty cool for all athletes across all sports.

“We’ve done a total of like 52 across 17 different sports. We’ll be approaching the remaining women’s sports and doing NILs with each of those remaining sports that we haven’t done at least one NIL (deal) with on those teams but we did do an NIL deal for the entire women’s basketball team that was very well received.”

Female-specific NIL collectives and funds

There are a few collectives that exist specifically to support female athletes, such as the Lady Vol Boost Her Club for women who attend Tennessee and Who Rocks the House for Utah gymnasts.

There are collectives that support men and women that have created funds specifically for female athletes, such as Montlake Futures‘ “Women’s Fund” at Washington, or the Mass St. Collective‘s “Women’s 100 Club” for female athletes at Kansas. Membership to the Women’s 100 Club requires a $5,000 annual contribution, which will be exclusively used to fund NIL opportunities for female athletes as part of the fund’s $500,000 annual goal.

Wendy’s serves as the presenting sponsor of the Women’s 100 Club and a group that owns numerous franchises was the first to contribute to the club. The restaurant chain has partnered with KU outside hitter/libero Caroline Bien and basketball guard Holly Kersgieter.

“I can tell you that when we partnered with both of these ladies and that press release went out, my phone blew up from friends and families and certainly, especially, females saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you for supporting the women as well,'” said Kirk Williams, the co-owner of Legacy Restaurant Group, which owns and operates Wendy’s franchises in Kansas and Missouri.

Collectives expand scope in second year of NIL

Other collectives or sports marketing agencies have expanded their scope to help facilitate NIL opportunities to any athletes at a given institution who are interested in them.

After the 901 Fund partnered with more than 150 Memphis athletes from its football and men’s and women’s basketball players, the collective announced in March an expansion to support athletes from all programs.

“I think it was important for us to provide the access, the opportunity, to make it easier for people to give directly to those sports,” Presley said.

Previously, the collective was willing to help facilitate NIL opportunities for donors who were interested in supporting athletes in another sport but it wasn’t yet a priority for the collective. There were conversations but they didn’t materialize into NIL deals.

The 901 Fund has since worked with 10 additional athletes from Memphis’s soccer, softball, track and field and volleyball programs.

“We actually have charities who are asking to get female student-athletes out there,” Presley said.

The sports marketing agency Triumph NIL, which works with more than 60 Virginia Tech athletes, recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Its partners hope that number will increase exponentially by the agency’s second anniversary.

“I think it’ll be north of 300 for sure,” said former Virginia Tech football player and Triumph NIL partner Brenden Hill. “I think there’s 700 student-athletes, or close to 700 student-athletes, at Virginia Tech and the goal is to work with any and all of them that want to participate.”

Role of collectives in women’s basketball

Collectives’ agreements with women’s basketball players are often on a much smaller scale than men’s players, even if a collective is public in its support of a school’s women’s basketball program.

“We’ve really been concentrated on the men’s team in terms of funds allocation,” said The Massachusetts Collective director Patrick MacWilliams. “But honestly, I’ve spent more time just in the things we’ve done for the women’s team, which has been great, like the Turbo’s Treats, which takes a ton of time to do and doing the publicity for that – just the fulfillment of orders. There are hundreds of orders.”

While a top men’s basketball transfer might earn mid-to-high six figures annually, a top women’s basketball transfer might receive compensation in the low five figures. One estimate is that a top women’s basketball transfer could earn $35,000 to $40,000 annually, given that players who play for one of the sport’s top programs can often earn at least $20,000 to $25,000.

“Everybody wants money but there’s no money because all of it’s going to men’s basketball,” Jason Belzer, who’s the co-founder and CEO of Student Athlete NIL, which supports roughly 20 collectives nationally, said earlier this month when comparing the opportunities for men’s and women’s basketball players. “That’s just the reality of it. There are very few dollars that are flowing to women’s basketball. Very few.

“Ironically, it’s a great petri dish of what happens if Title IX didn’t actually happen because all the money would go to the men’s programs. Usually, the people that are supporting women’s basketball are the ones that are also supporting men’s. Same donor base. There’s not a whole lot of money – we’ve seen it – but the highest compensation that we’ve seen (in) women’s basketball is maybe $20,000 for a really good player on the women’s side and what is that? That’s like a mid-major basketball team on the men’s side may have five guys making $20,000, where that’s like one player at a high-major women’s program if that.”