For the first time in March Madness history, players can sign sponsorship deals that allow them to capitalize on the use of their names, images and popularity.
Zia Cooke, aa junior guard and leading scorer for the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team, winning on and off the court. She recently won the tournament in March, along with her teammates. This achievement, coupled with her star reputation as an athlete, explains why she was named one of the highest-paid college basketball players in the Final Four, according to Bloomberg.
And she represents all other black student-athletes.
“It just shows that we can do a lot of things that a lot of people say we can’t do,” she said. CBS News. “Seeing all the girls there for NIL and I think it was just a boy shows that we can do literally anything they can do. It’s a business and it’s super efficient for women and men.
The approval signature move comes next a Supreme Court decision last summer, it effectively overturned years of resistance from the NCAA, which had prevented student-athletes from getting paid. Now, college athletes have the power to take control of their own athletic careers as sponsorships are considered.
In many cases, women have earned more than men as brands tend to lean towards social networks with more followings, according to CBS News.
With 225,000 Instagram followers, Cooke earns around $7,923 on social media based on his followers, as Bloomberg reports. She is among the top three earners in college basketball as a whole.
Cooke recently signed a sponsorship deal with H&R Block as part of the financial services company’s ‘A Fair Shot’ campaign. She is proud to be part of an initiative that invests in female college athletes, to show her authentic self.
“It gave me a chance to show who I am for a minute,” she said. “I did DoorDash, which was also super fun. I’ve done Bojangles deals and I’ve done Fenty Skin, Rihanna’s line, so I’ve had quite a few and this is just the start. I am excited for what’s in store.
But for Cooke, she is focused on bringing her best work on and off the court.
She continued, “I don’t even want to know how much money I have,” she said. “I haven’t looked at the account since I started. Now I just try to stay focused on my best work… I want to save because once you see the prices you want to buy stuff like that.