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Who is Caitlin Clark? The College Star Who Transformed Women’s Basketball | American news

The “Caitlin Clark Effect,” as it is known, has forever transformed women’s basketball in terms of ratings, attendance, merchandise and off-court endorsement deals.

By means of Seb Sadler, news reporter


Wednesday May 8, 2024 3:00 PM, UK

Caitlin Clark has taken women’s basketball to a new place, becoming an icon of the sport and, at the age of 22, leaving a lasting impression on American society and culture.

Clark, from West Des Moines, Iowa, made her college debut for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2020 and was drafted No. 1 overall in the WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever last month.

Over the past four years, she has been immortalized as the greatest scorer in college basketball history, with 3,951 points in four seasons.



Image:
Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark (22) in action during the game against the Dallas Wings. Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In March, she passed basketball great Pete Maravich for the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) all-time points record, which has been held for more than half a century.

Clark’s playing style has been remarkably compared to NBA superstar Stephen Curry as he inspires a whole new generation of basketball fans around the world.



Image:
Clark is the greatest scorer in college basketball history. Image: Reuters

The “Caitlin Clark Effect,” as it is known, has transformed women’s basketball forever. Here’s how she achieved it.

The rating game

The Iowa-South Carolina national championship game averaged 18.9 million viewers this year, an increase of 89% from the year before. This makes it the highest-rated basketball game in five years, for both men and women, at any level. South Carolina won the game 87-75.

At its peak, the match was watched by 24 million people across America.



Image:
Clark (R). Photo: AP

Clark’s presence in WNBA will change the game

To put that in perspective, the 2023 WNBA Finals averaged 728,000 viewers across four games – with 889,000 tuning in to witness the Las Vegas Aces’ championship victory.

Of the 12 WNBA teams, the Indiana Fever had the second-lowest attendance in 2023, with the Fever playing only once on TV.

According to Vivid Seats, average ticket prices for games including the Fever have more than doubled, all before she was drafted.

At least 36 of the Fever’s 40 regular-season games will be shown on TV and streaming platforms — the most in the WNBA.

Trek evening

In April, Clark was selected No. 1 overall by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Draft, drawing an average of 2.45 million viewers.

This represents a 307% increase in viewership compared to the 2023 edition, which attracted just 572,000 viewers.

The previous WNBA Draft ratings record was set in 2004 and was watched by 600,000 people.

Sports retailer Fanatics says Clark’s #22 jersey for the Fever also became an instant hit, becoming the best-selling jersey ever for a draft pick in any sport. This record was later broken by Caleb Williams after the Chicago Bears drafted him No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft.

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Sponsorship

Before turning pro, the 22-year-old has signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade, State Farm and Panini – something that was previously against NCAA rules until 2021.

Name, Image, Likeness database On3 says Clark has made $3.1 million (£2.4 million) from university sponsorships.



Image:
Stephen Curry. Photo: AP

At the draft, Clark became the first basketball star – WNBA or NBA – to be dressed by Prada.

Clark has reportedly signed an eight-year, $28 million contract with Nike, which includes her own signature shoe.

The #1 pick also made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, which racked up millions of views on social media.

Pay inequality

Clark will earn a salary of $76,535 (£61,384) for her rookie season.

According to the WNBAs Under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), Clark will earn $338,056 (£271,141) over the next four years.

In contrast, Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft, signed a four-year, $55 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs, according to sports contract tracker Spotrac.

Clark’s on-court earnings are just 0.6% of Wembanyama’s first NBA contract.

Following the draft, the US PresidentJoe Bidenspoke out about the overall state of salaries in women’s sports, posting on X that female athletes were “not getting their fair share.”

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The future

The Iowa legend has driven ratings, attendance and merchandise sales to all-time highs.

Off the court, her star power has opened up tremendous financial opportunities for student-athletes, as well as female basketball players.

Clark’s fame has also fueled debate about the significant disparity between male and female sports contracts in the US.