It was a boom year for sports sponsorships, especially for women athletes. Sponsorship deals for female athletes grew 20% year-over-year in 2022, according to sports and entertainment intelligence platform SponsorUnited.
Brands leveraged these partnerships through digital channels, including social media, where sponsorships of women athletes saw a 70% boost in engagement this year. Women are projected to overtake their male counterparts in social engagement by 2024.
Shining stars. Tennis star Serena Williams and Alex Morgan of the National Women’s Soccer League both have 27 sponsorships, the most of any female athletes.
On the men’s side, Norfolk State’s track and field runner Rayquan Smith ran away with from the rest of the field with 58 sponsorships. Second place went to cricket player Virat Kohli, with 44 deals.
NILs. One big story is the breakthrough for Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals awarded to college athletes, a practice ruled legal by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2021. Now, there are a dozen college athletes earning $1 million or more through NILs.
Football is the top college sport, claiming 598 NILs.
Pro leagues. What professional sports league has the most sponsorships? That would be Major League Baseball, with 3.350 deals made in 2022.
The National Football League came in second with 3,000 deals.
Growth in charities. Pro sports and athlete charity sponsorships are expected to grow by 25%, according to SponsorUnited’s 2022 Sports Sponsorship Year in Review. Charities and nonprofits involved in athlete sponsorship deals have increased 85% since 2019.
The SponsorUnited intelligence platform tracks 1.1 million sponsorships and endorsements across 250,000 brands and properties.
Why we care. Digital channels allow sports fans to zero in on the sports and athletes they like, regardless of mainstream media coverage. This opens up new opportunities for brands, as well as athletes.
NIL deals for college athletes are breaking new ground because they represent a category of athlete that can be more relatable than a perennial All-Star, a quality that is primed for social media and other forms of digital engagement.
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