Growth in women’s sports was led by soccer star Alex Morgan and tennis legend Serena Williams with 27 sponsorship deals each, as well as college softball player Lauren Burke with 22 deals, the report stated. Women athletes, teams and leagues benefited from sponsors such as Ally Financial that made a point of distributing its sports sponsorship opportunities equitably, Lynch said.
Read more: See how Ally is plugging sports gender equality
“It was a great year for women’s sports, and some of that was driven by brands that said, ‘We’re going to plant a flag in the ground and distribute our sponsorship spend in a more equal way,’” Lynch said.
Women athletes tend to perform better at engagement than male athletes on social channels, Lynch added. “They don’t have the size and audience volume that male athletes have, but when you look at the social performance of female athletes it dwarfs male athletes in terms of the percentage of their followers that engage with their branded posts. In many cases, it’s 10 times more [fans] who like, share or comment on those branded posts.”
Also see: Top 5 NIL deals of 2022
NIL deals, which were permitted by the NCAA beginning in July of 2021, have been a boon for college athletes and sports-minded brands, Lynch said. Rayquan Smith, a track and field athlete at Norfolk State University, was the most sponsored athlete globally this year with 58 deals, according to the report. Cricket player Virat Kohli was second with 44; followed by Nascar’s Kurt Busch (40); Brazilian soccer player Neymar Jr (36); and Austin Ekler of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers (30).