An Early Look at Which College Athletes are Getting NIL Deals

As of July 1, 2021, NCAA athletes across all sports have been allowed to accept compensation for use of their name, image and likeness, whether that’s to promote a brand, make an appearance, or simply signing memorabilia.

While in theory, that could mean relatively big money for highly marketable collegiate Olympians, it was understood that athletes in revenue-generating sports like football and men’s basketball generally stood to benefit most.

Through the first three months of the NIL market being live, that has indeed been the case. Opendorse, a digital platform for connecting athletes and brands, provided data about its first three months in the collegiate NIL business (this data, of course, applies only to deals booked through Opendorse and may not exactly reflect the industry at large).

Across all sports, 35% of deals are going to football players, along with 55% of the total compensation for deals. Women’s volleyball, notably, ranks ahead of men’s basketball by number of deals, but behind it in total compensation. Women swimmers and divers are doing slightly better than men in the NIL landscape: women are 11th in number of deals and the men are tied for 12th, while the former ranks fifth in share of compensation and the latter sixth.

Thus far, publicly-announced NIL agreements with swimmers have mostly included suit deals with companies like Speedo and TYR. Regan Smith, Carson Foster and David Curtiss are among those with suit deals, while Alex Walsh recently announced a partnership with SwimOutlet.

Most NIL activities by sport: Most NIL compensation by sport:
1. 35.0% – Football
2. 8.4% – Women’s Volleyball
3. 7.5% – Men’s Basketball
4. 6.0% – Men’s Baseball
5. 4.9% – Men’s Track & Field
6. 4.8% – Women’s Soccer
7. 4.1% – Women’s Track & Field
7. 4.1% – Women’s Basketball
9. 3.3% – Softball
10. 2.9% – Men’s Soccer
11. 2.3% – Women’s Swimming & Diving
T-12. 1.5% – Men’s Wrestling
T-12. 1.5% – Men’s Swimming & Diving
T-12. 1.5% – Women’s Lacrosse
1. 55.4% – Football
2. 13.4% – Men’s Basketball
3. 6.7% – Women’s Volleyball
4. 4.7% – Women’s Basketball
5. 4.0% – Women’s Swimming & Diving
6. 2.0% – Men’s Swimming & Diving
7. 1.8% – Softball
8. 1.3% – Men’s Track & Field
9. 1.2% – Women’s Ice Hockey
10. 1.1% – Men’s Baseball

As for conferences, athletes in the Big Ten lead the way in number of deals and total compensation. The top 5 conferences in activity also lead in total compensation.

Top conferences for NIL activities:
1. Big Ten
2. Big 12
3. ACC
4. SEC
5. Pac-12
6. AAC
7. Mountain West
8. MAC
9. Big East
10. Conference USA

Based on the by-sport breakdown, it’s no surprise that the majority of deals are going to male athletes.

Total compensation: men’s vs. women’s sports

Division Men’s Sports Women’s Sports
Division I 78% 22%
Division II 39% 61%
Division III 80% 20%
Total 77% 23%

Among the athletes in each division who have signed NIL deals, the average dollar value per deal drops off significantly from Division I to II and III.

Average NIL compensation per athlete with at least 1 deal:
1. Division I: $391.00
2. Division II: $78.00
3. Division III: $35.00

Note that the vast majority of NIL deals included in this data, 87.7%, are deals that entail posting content. But when it comes to the value of those deals, content-posting accounts for 42.6% of compensation, while licensing rights (2.6% of all deals) shoot up to 20.1% of compensation. Deals that entail actually making an appearance somewhere, doing an interview, signing something, selling a product or providing instruction account for about 4% of all NIL activities, based on Opendorse’s data.

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1 year ago

good look

2 years ago

Don’t let there be any misunderstanding. Hundreds of athletes across the country are getting upwards of $300,000 to $1,000,000 in compensation. Players are asked to choose between a Mercedes or a Jaguar, and checks are being sent from companies directly to players lawyer agents without necessarily counting towards any of the silly numbers above. I am well aware of schools finding ways of earning millions of $’s and dispersing it through avenues that were normally in the past illicit and illegal. $319 per transaction in an absolutely absurd number when you must offer top players at power five schools over $400,000 to get their attention and then meet whatever someone else offers above that. There are rules, but very few,… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by ASAP HELP!!
2 years ago

Great article. Thanks. Title IX will soon have an issue with this.

I Hate Idiots
Reply to  Falcon
2 years ago

This is private compensation independent of education funds.

Mike B
2 years ago

Thank you for this very informative article…a lot of helpful (early) data here…

2 years ago

Glad to see that not only are the schools taking advantage of the athletes, now the market gets to as well.

I know it’s still early, but the $ are pathetic and likely not worth the time put in (which is a common issue in influencer world)

2 years ago

Any more insight on what the dollar amount in the average NIL compensation per athlete represent? For example, is $391 the average amount for a social media post by a DI athlete or is it for a period of time that the company get to use the athlete’s name or likeness?

2 years ago

Surprised volleyball has more NIL’s than basketball

Reply to  PhillyMark
2 years ago

If you think of it from a television ratings perspective, maybe.

If you think about it from a cultural perspective, maybe not.

Girls’ volleyball is a MASSIVE participation sport, and the demographics of Division I volleyball (tall thin suburban white women) fits the Instagram/TikTok aesthetic at a much higher rate than male basketball players do, and Instagram/TikTok is what’s driving the quantity numbers right now.

I wrote about this when NIL was heating up, that ‘social media appeal,’ which includes qualities that are taboo to discuss, as we’re learning during the Facebook hearings, is what’s going to drive this, as compared to traditional “television commercials” and the like.

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Thanks for the insights Braden and Torrey more articles like this plzzzz!

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Keep in mind this NIL firm is based in Lincoln, Nebraska which is a “hotbed” of Women’s VB at the University of Nebraska and in Nebraska high school ranks. The data might reflect Opendorse’s local or regional client base rather than national trends.
Gotta do something in Nebraska besides watch the corn grow! Just kidding because I have relatives there and they were the source of the joke.

cynthia curran
Reply to  SwimPhan
2 years ago

The National Volleyball teams practice in Anaheim. UCLA and USC are also power houses in Volleyball and lots of the Beach Volleyball players went to either USC or UCLA.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Real Sports did a segment sort of touching on this, there were two women’s basketball players – and TikTok influencers – that were making more money than their coach.

Which rules, that should basically be every team.

cynthia curran
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

The national Team practice’s in Anaheim. Beach Volleyball had April Ross from Costa Mesa and her partner from Manathan beach.

cynthia curran
Reply to  cynthia curran
2 years ago

One of the national team volleyball players that played for Nebraska went to high school in Orange County and was half Asian/Latina. She plays Libero position wihch means you can be shorter.

You Heard It Here First
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Honest to goodness swimming savant.

Douglas G Ross
Reply to  PhillyMark
2 years ago

Mens Football and Basketball support most of the other sports in the NCAA, the rest should be club sports. Other than Football and Basketball, most of the sports are Olympic Sports. Baseball players sign big contracts out of High School, or when they get drafted out of college. 391,000 is a good chunk of change for Division 1 players. Division 2, and 3 should be club teams in all sports and pass the savings to all students by lowering tuition.


About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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