Parity for female athletes: In this case it’s a liaison for sponsorship dollars

An online sponsorship platform aims to close the wage gap in esports with one sponsored Instagram post at a time.

Founded in 2020, Parity connects female athletes with brands and puts money in the pockets of athletes often overlooked in marketing conversations. The company signed a partnership with the WNBA Players’ Association in 2021 and has nearly 800 athletes from more than 70 sports, the women playing in major professional leagues to smaller Olympic events, and partners with more than 30 companies.

Parity is not an agency or marketing company. Rather, it’s a connection that helps female athletes capitalize on the growing influencer economy.

“Our goal as a company is to put billions of dollars into the hands of female athletes over time,” said Alana Casner, vice president of content and strategy at Parity.

The long-term goal could help close a deep wage gap between men’s and women’s sports. Today’s NBA minimum salary equates to the entire $1.4 million salary cap for a WNBA team, but even in 1973, the NBA’s 26th season, the league overtook the WNBA at the same age. According to the New York Times, NBA players earned an average of $90,000 in 1973. The equivalent of $637,000 today is still five times the 2022 WNBA average of $120,648.

The WNBPA partnership allows players to opt into Parity’s service. Athletes fill out a detailed survey that is used to match them with eligible brands that pay for sponsored social media posts. Parity has also launched a number of NFTs for athletes and offers professional career development opportunities.

Athletes earn at least one cent per follower per campaign from Parity’s paid posts. For a player like Sparks forward Katie Lou Samuelson, who has 131,000 followers on Instagram and an unprotected salary of $72,141, every dollar of at least $1,310 from a Parity partnership counts.

“It’s a good opportunity, especially for athletes who don’t necessarily have that many followings,” Samuelson, who wore a custom pair of shoes designed in collaboration with Parity and artist Katie Shaffstall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, told the Social -Media campaign manager in the company. “They want to find that equality for everyone.”

While Parity is open to all professional female athletes, it’s not intended for the top 5% of earners, Casner acknowledged. The elite athletes who have already built robust referral portfolios may not need third-party support.

It’s for “everyone else,” Casner said.

It’s especially helpful for many WNBA players since their salaries haven’t skyrocketed yet and most of the marketing dollars go to the league’s biggest stars, like former No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu and MVP of the year 2020, A’ja Wilson. RPG veterans gained the least in negotiations for the 2020 collective bargaining agreement, which increased the salary cap by 31% but raised top player salaries by 83% and rookie salaries by 35.8%.

It’s these middle-class players that the union has been eyeing on the Parity partnership.

“We want everyone’s boat to be able to get on,” said Sparks forward and WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike.

Casner said Parity is currently working with about 50 active WNBA players. The brands range from large companies like Microsoft or Morgan Stanley looking to diversify their sponsorship spend, to small startups targeting female athletes to launch their campaigns.

In the 18 months since Parity launched, the growing number of brands seeking to partner with women has been incredible, Casner said. It’s never been “cool” to be a fan of women’s sports, she added, until recently when WNBA players led the way both on and off the court with rising TV ratings in 2020 by leading the way for social justice.

While many companies are just beginning to take notice, recent success has solidified what Casner and other longtime fans already know.

“This stuff is great,” said Casner. “Money should be spent here.” Parity for female athletes: In this case it’s a liaison for sponsorship dollars

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