May 28, 2024
Melinda Head

Caitlin Clark

A Marketing Opportunity Par Excellence

Caitlin Clark is the face of women’s basketball.

First draft pick by Indiana Fever, Clark scored the most points by any man or woman ever in NCAA history (3,951) prior to turning pro, demolishing a 54-year record held by former LSU star “Pistol” Pete Maravich (3,667).

Caitlin Clark dethroned Pete Maravich’s 54-year record as the NCAA’s top scorer of all time. A second generation American-Serbian who grew up in a steel town in western Pennsylvania, Maravich died at age 40 from an undetected congenital heart defect

Caitlin’s magic stems from her use of Deep 3’s – long range shots during which she makes a play before her opponents can set up a defense.

“Sometimes I don’t even realize how far away I am (when I shoot).” (Caitlin Clark)

“Once I get hot, the rim looks really huge.” (Caitlin Clark)

Dubbed “sniper”, “lights out” and “unguardable”, Indiana-headquartered pharma giant Lilly and cloud-based software solutions company Salesforce, which sports the largest office tower in downtown Indiana, must be very happy to have their logos on the front of Fever jerseys, including the repeatedly sold-out #22.

Caitlin chose #22 because that is the day of her birthday: January 22, 2002. To honor her legacy, the Iowa Hawkeyes have retired her number

Clark’s a marketing grad, who admits that she is “lucky to be starting (her) career at a time when sports are intertwined with business and entertainment more so than ever before”.

Taylor Swift’s is only a high school grad, but she had the good fortune of having a mother who approached her career with a strategic marketing lens. It is no mistake that Swift also owns the company that manages her career (13 Management).

This is Andrea Swift, Taylor Swift’s mother, who is largely credited with creating the marketing strategy that has underpinned her $1 billion career

Even though Clark has a college education and formal marketing knowledge, as an elite athlete she needs to be laser focussed on her game – thus, her career is managed by privately held Excel Sports Management, a top 5 player in the sports management business with a solid NBA and WNBA track record. With commissions capped in the low single digits for playing contracts, Excel will suffer the same low salary-based fate as Clark (~5% of Clark’s $76,535 rookie year salary=$3,826.75); however, both will make their money on everything else. And everything else is big, very big. With a reportedly $28 million Nike endorsement recently inked, topped with a new Wilson Sports deal, alongside early partnerships with Gatorade and Panini, Clark and her Excel sports management team are well on their way to paving a long-deserved new brick road for women in sports.

While the complexities of running the Taylor Swift machine are mind-boggling, I believe Swift has more wiggle room, which allows her to create, perform and manage her business; for example, if Swift’s voice is a bit scratchy or she has a costume malfunction, no one really cares. On the court, however, Caitlin must be a sharp-shooter - there is little room for error.

How can we ensure that women who play sports at an elite level take on greater direct control of the business and entertainment value they provide during their time-limited sports lives (and beyond)? There’s nothing like disintermediation, as billionaire Taylor Swift has clearly demonstrated. Caitlin, you have business training – put it to good use and set your sights high.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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