H&R Block campaign provides female athletes 'a fair shot' at brand NIL deals
The company will commit $1 million and provide free tax preparation services to athletes managing sponsorships.
Last July, the NCAA redefined college athletes’ ability to profit from their sports careers, unveiling a revamped “name, image and likeness” (NIL) policy allowing them to enter into paid brand sponsorships. Since then, a majority of deals have been with male stars.
H&R Block in a new campaign called “A Fair Shot” is trying to level the playing field. The tax preparation company announced that it is committing $1 million to sponsor female athletes from a range of college sports, including basketball, softball and gymnastics. H&R Block will also provide free tax preparation services to help these women—as well as other female athletes—adjust to managing sponsorships and associated taxes.
When the NCAA announced its NIL policy, H&R Block agency of record Carmichael Lynch and its PR arm, Carmichael Lynch Relate, began to consider how the new regulations would impact college athletes and their finances, said Julie Batliner, Camichael Lynch president.
In the following months, the agencies began to research the types of sponsorships these athletes were receiving and discovered a large discrepancy in the amount of money that women earned from NIL compared to male colleagues. That's when a senior team of women at the agency began conceiving a campaign to help even the score.
The campaign continues today with a TikTok hashtag challenge titled “Imagine a World” that encourages users to discuss what society would look like without inequity, whether relating to compensation for sports or exploring other disparities, Batliner said. Five of H&R Block’s sponsored athletes, including South Carolina Gamecock star Zia Cooke, will kickstart the challenge by sharing videos describing their personal views of a world free of inequity.
The campaign also includes a pre-roll video ad called “Name One Player” that highlights how many people, including children, struggle to name any female basketball players although male basketball players are often household names.
“If you talk to kids, or you talk to people, it’s hard for them to name female college athletes, and many times male college athletes’ names roll off the tongue,” Batliner said. “It’s really driving the point home that there needs to be more awareness, and that is what the ‘A Fair Shot’ program and platform is really out to do.”
According to data collected by Opendorse, a platform that helps match potential sponsors to athletes, out of roughly 55,000 collegiate athletes across more than 575 colleges and universities, male athletes currently rake in almost 72% of the total compensation from brand partnerships leaving women with only 28% of this overall income. Brands most commonly work with athletes to have them post branded content on the athletes’ social media accounts, per the data.
Male college football stars earned 52% of the compensation of all NIL deals through Feb. 28, according the study. But female basketball players have earned more than male basketball players, with 19% of all deals compared with 15% for men, according to the study. “A lot of female athletes have social media followings, especially on Instagram and TikTok, that marketers crave,” Sam Doerr, chief strategy officer of the NHL's Florida Panthers, recently told The Washington Post, which profiled the rise of women's hoops in the NIL industry. (The Panters have deals with female athlete at Florida Atlantic University, the Post reported.)
Beyond H&R Block’s commitment to sponsor a group of female collegiate athletes and provide them with free tax services, the “A Fair Shot” program also aims to create a shared network for female athletes across the country and in many different sports, Batliner said, “using the H&R Block platform to link all of these women together to drive awareness of the inequity” they face.
The 19 women funded by H&R Block as part of the campaign includes two basketball stars who partnered with the company in early March, Caitlin Clark and Cooke. Last week, H&R Block announced its full roster of sponsored athletes, including Jordan Chiles, a silver-medal winning member of the Team USA gymnastics team in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.