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Standout University of Connecticut sophomore Paige Bueckers signed her second major endorsement deal since the new name, image, and likeness rule went into effect at the end of July. Bueckers signed with Gatorade, the first college athlete it has signed. She was named the Gatorade Girls Player of the Year her senior year in high school.
“It was a blessing to win Gatorade Player of the Year, and now it’s truly surreal to be an official member of the Gatorade family,” Bueckers said through a release. “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.”
As part of their multiyear partnership, Bueckers and Gatorade will work together to drive impact on the women’s game. Bueckers joins a Gatorade athlete roster that is stacked with other elite women athletes, including Serena Williams, Sydney McLaughlin and Elena Delle Donne, as well as some of the best men's generational talent, including Zion Williamson, Jayson Tatum and Trevor Lawrence.
"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,” added Jeff Kearney, Global Head of Sports Marketing at Gatorade.
This is Bueckers' second major NIL deal signed this month. Earlier in November, she signed a multiyear deal with StockX, a footwear and apparel marketplace platform. She also hired an agent in August and trademarked “Paige Buckets,” which she intends to use for a clothing line.
UConn women's basketball is one of the most recognizable brands in college sports and won 10 national titles in the last 20 years. Head coach Geno Auriemma understands this is a new frontier for his star athletes and is supporting them through it.
“The policy is very clear: I’m not involved. I’m not telling you don’t sign with this person, make sure you sign with that person,” Auriemma said this summer, via The UConn Blog's Daniel Connolly. “I just made a simple request: Before you get into any agreement, you probably should run it by me or compliance just to make sure that what you are signing is copacetic with what [is allowed].”
Other UConn players to sign major NIL deals early on in the season include Azzi Fudd, who signed major NIL deals with Chipotle and BioSteel and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who partnered with fitness apparel company Fabletics.
“These are the kind of things and opportunities, which is sad when you really think about it, that we won’t get to have as much when we go pro,” Fudd told Yahoo Sports. “We are in our prime right now.”
Bueckers is currently averaging 20.5 points and 6.5 assists per game. She became the first freshman in women’s college basketball history to win the Wooden Award and won every award she was eligible for last season, including AP Player of the Year and Naismith College Player of the Year.
The 5-foot-11 point guard is only a sophomore and is projected to be one of the most influential and highest-paid NIL athletes in college sports by the time she reaches her senior year.