UConn’s Paige Bueckers signs endorsement deal with Gatorade in her latest NIL activity

Photo of Maggie Vanoni

Just four games into her sophomore season and Paige Bueckers continues to make history both on and off the court.

Bueckers became the first college athlete to sign an endorsement deal with Gatorade, as announced by the company on Monday. The sophomore also announced the deal on Instagram with pictures of her in a Gatorade Letterman's jacket with the caption: “From fueling my first childhood sports moments to a dream come true. Blessed to officially become part of the Gatorade family.”

It’s the latest endorsement opportunity for Bueckers in the name, image and likeness era of college sports. College athletes have been able to profit off their name and image since July 1, when state laws were enacted and the NCAA altered it rules.

“It was a blessing to win Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, and now it’s truly surreal to be an official member of the Gatorade family,” Bueckers told Boardroom. “I know this is just the beginning of our partnership and can’t wait to get to work with Gatorade to drive impact in the community and on the women’s game.”

With the multi-year partnership, Bueckers will work with Gatorade to help promote and grow women’s basketball. She joins other elite female athletes to sign with Gatorade including Serena Williams, Sydney McLaughlin and Elena Delle Donne.

“As a former Gatorade Player of the Year and one of the top college athletes playing today, Paige Bueckers is the perfect addition to the Gatorade Family,” Jeff Kearney, Gatorade’s global head of sports marketing, told Boardroom. “From her electrifying performances on the court to fueling change off of it, Paige exemplifies everything it means to be a Gatorade athlete, and partnering with her is a statement to the next generation of our continued commitment to women in sport.”

Gatorade is Bueckers’ second major NIL deal after last year’s Player of the Year announced her deal with StockX in early November.

With a large social media following and the brand cultivated during her high school playing career in Minnesota, Bueckers was always viewed a college athlete capable capitalizing on NIL opportunities. She signed with the Los Angeles-based Wasserman Media Group before sign her first endorsement deals.

The shift in NIL policy began when states — including Connecticut — passed laws that were set to go live on July 1. The NCAA adopted a policy that allowed student-athletes to hire representation, sign endorsement deals, and profit off their names through a variety of methods.

Bueckers was identified during the NCAA Tournament last year as one of the most marketable athletes in college sports. In early July, Bueckers said she had been approached for sponsorship opportunities.

“I’ve just tried to keep my peace and my sanity,” she said. “I know that a lot of people have been going crazy and doing a whole bunch of deals and stuff, but I’m not really ready for that yet. I didn’t know what it was going look like, what it was going be like, who’s going to talk to me. who’s not. But it’s all kind of new. It’s new for me, it’s new for everybody so everybody’s going to deal with it a different way.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma talked over the summer about chatting with Bueckers in advance of the policy changes. Bueckers, he said, understood that “The No. 1 thing is still, you better be good at basketball or none of these opportunities come along.”

Meanwhile, UConn unveiled its NIL policy in July. The school retains the outside firm Opendorse to manage NIL activity and educate students since the school is not permitted to play a role. All agreements — including Bueckers’ deal with Gatorade — must be approved by the school through Opendorse and must adhere to the school’s policy, which includes such guidelines as preventing athletes from using the school logo, marks or phrases in NIL activity.