As the NCAA nears its deadline to finalize rules for the 2020-21 school year concerning athletes’ new ability to profit off their name, image and likeness, one group has already been quietly profiting for years: cheerleaders.
Because the sport is not governed by the association, cheerleading participants can sign lucrative endorsement deals that would lead to punishment for most college athletes. That means potentially thousands of dollars in income for some cheerleaders with strong social media presences — so-called “cheerlebrities.”
Individuals with top accounts are earning upwards of $5,000 for posts sponsored by major companies, and about $200 to promote small boutiques, going as far as to hire agents to help negotiate deals. Many got their start working with small companies that sell cheerleading gear.
Big-time brands are buying in: Amazon, Crocs, L’Oréal, American Eagle, Nissan and various cosmetics brands are among the companies to sponsor cheerleaders — some of whom are closing in on half a million Instagram followers.
- Texas Tech cheerleader Shannon Woolsey: 255,000 Instagram followers, garners up to $5,000 per post with partners like Reebok and the cosmetics company Vanity Planet.
- Former Oklahoma cheerleader Jamie Andries: 428,000 Instagram followers, partnerships with Nissan, Amazon, FabFitFun, Colgate, SmileDirectClub and Urban Decay.
It’s not just college-aged athletes, either. High school cheerleaders are able to capitalize on their NIL without voiding collegiate eligibility, with one prominent athlete getting paid for posts on TikTok as well as selling autographed bows.