Who’s going to get the most deals? Marketers pick their top 10 WNBA draftees

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When the WNBA draft tips off tonight at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, most fans will be focused on the order of the names being called. Will Caitlin Clark go no. 1 overall? Who will draft Angel Reese?

The list of college prospects in this year’s draft is incredibly compelling. Not just for the WNBA clubs drafting them, but brands and marketers looking to tap into the unprecedented popularity and momentum behind women’s basketball right now. Brands like State Farm and Gatorade were among the major sports marketers with campaigns built around Clark during the NCAA tournament.

Gatorade head of sports marketing Jeff Kearney told me last month that with stars like Clark and Reese moving from college to the WNBA, women’s basketball is set to take off in a big way. “There’s a wave coming, and is this going to carry into the W?” said Kearney. “I don’t think it slows it down at all. It could really take it to an even higher level.”

Dallas-based agency The Marketing Arm (TMA) has compiled a list of the top ten 2024 WNBA draft picks with the projected highest commercial appeal. The agency’s celebrity and influencer team analyzed the list of WNBA draft prospects through the same lens it views any category of talent: prioritizing attributes such as awareness, appeal, trust and influence.

“With this season in women’s college basketball being the most watched, we assessed players with some combination of on-court dominance, social media strength, track record of NIL deals, interesting off-court endeavors, appeal with certain audiences, and projected to go high in the draft,” says TMA celebrity and influencer team manager Sam Ibarra.

Unprecedented draft class

Ibarra and his team see Clark and Reese in a category of their own, but don’t rank the players on marketability because the needs and objectives of any given brand play a vital role in player partnership and can differ significantly. Ibarra says the two most common traits among these players are their on-court dominance and authenticity in their public image.

“How valuable are their contributions to the game? And is the image they are portraying authentic to themselves?” says Ibarra. “Consumers are always judging whether an athlete or influencer is being real, so that’s of the utmost importance.”

Ibarra and his team see this year’s draft as the WNBA equivalent to the NBA’s 1984 draft class that featured Michael Jordan, Charles Barkely, and Hakeem Olajuwon, in its ability to attract new fans to the league. “Having a large number of NBA fans following a lot of these women in college will flip an entirely new fanbase over to the WNBA when they get drafted,” says Ibarra. “They have brought a change to the game that hasn’t been seen in any other league within the last decade.”

This is also a draft class that is already adept at marketing themselves, thanks to NIL, building an audience of fans that will only get bigger. “The players today have so many ways to build their personal brands now, and the women athletes are especially adept at it,” says Ibarra. “Regardless of what people think of the various platforms, it’s all part of ‘the game’ now within athlete endorsements. Partnering with an athlete who is genuinely into your brand is key. There needs to be excitement on both sides.”

The Top 10

Listed alphabetically, here are the agency’s top draftees with the most commercial viability for brands as they head to the WNBA.

Isobel Borlase (Adelaide Lightning)
TMA report: Since dominating the WNBL in Australia, Borlase has the potential to bring in a completely new audience from overseas.

Cameron Brink (Stanford)
TMA report: NBA star Steph Curry’s godsister has been surrounded by the sport of basketball her entire life, and continues to break in other outlets outside of her sport such as fashion and self-care.
Current NIL brand partners: Optimum Nutrition, Estee Lauder.

Kamilla Cardoso (South Carolina) 
TMA report: The 6’7 NCAA title-winning forward took a huge risk leaving her hometown in Brazil before high school to pursue basketball.
Current NIL brand partners: Raising Cane’s.

Caitlin Clark (Iowa)
TMA report: The new face of women’s basketball is making her way into the WNBA after breaking almost every record in women’s collegiate basketball.

Current NIL brand partners: Gatorade, Nike, State Farm, Gainbridge, Xfinity, H&R Block, and Buick.

Aaliyah Edwards (UConn)
TMA report: While a star on the court, off the court Edwards is pretty lowkey and has been vocal about her faith throughout her various social media platforms.

Current NIL deals: Adidas.

Rickea Jackson (Tennessee)
TMA report: Jackson may play in Tennessee, but she is a Detroit native who is proud to rep her hometown.

Current NIL deals: Burt’s Bees, Honey Stinger, and HeyDude.

Charisma Osborne (UCLA)
TMA report: Basketball is her first love, but Charisma is a huge dog lover and is also pretty active on social media through her hilarious content.

Current NIL deals: Athletic Brewing Co.,and JLab Audio.

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Alissa Pili (Utah)
TMA report: Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, Pili grew up loving the game. Being both Samoan and Native Alaskan descent, she reps her family proud both on and off the court.

Current NIL deals: Utah 360 App.

Angel Reese (LSU)
TMA report: Often seen as Clark’s counterpart on the court, Reese has made just as much of a splash in the sponsorship world as Clark has, and she will continue to dominate the space both on and off the court. Reese announced her declaration for the draft via a Vogue feature.

Current NIL deals: Reese had 17 NIL deals in 2022-2023, and added Beats, Tampax, Goldman Sachs, Airbnb this year.

Jacy Sheldon (Ohio State)
TMA report: Born and raised in a suburb right outside Columbus, Ohio, Sheldon is a Buckeye through and through. When she’s not on the court she’s involved with special needs causes as her sister has down syndrome.

Current NIL deals: McDonalds, Powerade, Crossover Culture, Hanes.



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