UConn's Paige Bueckers has name, image, likeness deal

After a breakout freshman season at UConn, Huskies point guard Paige Bueckers has landed her first name, image and likeness endorsement deal: a multiyear partnership with footwear and apparel marketplace platform StockX.

The reigning 2021 John Wooden Award winner -- the first freshman woman to win the annual award since it began in 1976 -- will become "the centerpiece" of StockX's upcoming focus on women's sports and basketball, according to a company spokesperson.

"My partnership with StockX is about equity and authenticity," Bueckers said. "It's about product I love and about shining a light on all the creatives that drive culture. I'm here to celebrate them and, together with StockX, invest in making sure women and women athletes are prioritized, elevated and recognized for their style and their leadership."

Launched in 2016, StockX features more than 125,000 items across its marketplace from over 500 brands. The company saw sales of items total $1.8 billion in 2020, up dramatically from $1 billion in 2019.

In 2019, sales of women's exclusive sneakers "outpaced the overall market" by 80%, according to the company, with a growing number of high-value retro and lifestyle sneakers being worn by women in recent years.

In April, StockX announced its latest round of funding, leading to a current valuation of $3.8 billion. Terms of the Bueckers partnership were not disclosed.

"We're committed to providing a platform for female athletes to not only showcase their personal style, interests, and values but also to amplify their voices and connect with their communities," said Deena Bahri, StockX chief marketing officer.

In addition to excelling on the court, Bueckers boasts over 914,000 followers on Instagram and 341,000 followers on TikTok, where she's often seen displaying her off-court style and outfits.

While the NCAA's new name, image and likeness guidelines went into effect on July 1, it wasn't until July 12 that UConn's athletic department outlined its NIL policy.

The state of Connecticut also provided its own guidelines of allowable paths for collegiate athletes to earn money as of Sept. 1, in the state's Public Act 21-132.

Specifically, athletes must still wear Nike products in all official team activities and games. The Swoosh has long featured UConn as one of its premiere "elite" NCAA schools. Bueckers primarily wore the Nike Kyrie 7 in team-exclusive colorways throughout her freshman year.

On July 13, UConn's athletic department struck an agreement with social media insights company Opendorse to provide its student-athletes with resources, education and marketing tools around potential NIL deals in the new landscape. During last spring's NCAA tournament, Opendorse had estimated Bueckers' NIL value at $382,000 per year.

In early August, Bueckers selected the Wasserman agency and longtime leading WNBA agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas to represent her in all NIL negotiations, leading to the multiyear StockX partnership. Additional talks with several other companies are ongoing, with more announcements expected into the season.

As part of the agreement, StockX will gather and provide extensive data and insights throughout the partnership to validate the notion that women athletes can generate interest and impact sales for global partners.

Throughout the WNBA's 25-year history, only nine women have received their own signature shoe. After signing with Puma earlier this spring, in a deal also negotiated by Wasserman, Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart is set to become the 10th woman to launch her own signature shoe in the upcoming 2022 WNBA season.

Brands have long circled Bueckers as a rising star who can be an impactful footwear endorser while in college and during her inevitable WNBA career as a future potential No. 1 draft pick. There is widespread expectation around the industry that offering a signature shoe will be a necessary prerequisite to signing Bueckers once she turns pro.

However, she is not eligible to enter the WNBA draft until 2023 at the soonest, due to the league's rule that "requires draft entrants to be at least 22 years old during the year in which the draft takes place."

In early August, Wasserman filed to officially trademark the phrase "Paige Buckets." As part of the StockX deal, Bueckers will also help design exclusive products for the platform's DropX portal for limited-edition exclusive launches. These products could include third-party clothing brands or collaborators and could incorporate her Paige Buckets nickname.

For Bueckers, there will be an emphasis on community-driven initiatives and highlighting Black women and BIPOC creatives in upcoming projects. When accepting the 2021 ESPY for Women's Collegiate Athlete of the Year, she thanked Black women specifically for their impact across the game of basketball and the culture of the sport.

"Paige isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in and speak out for change, which is perfectly aligned with our cultural values of remaining committed to what's right and building a legacy," StockX CMO Bahri added. "We're excited to shine a light on this rising star and to be a partner to her as she continues to drive impact both on and off the court."

For the entirety of the deal, Bueckers will also be provided access to limited-edition footwear and apparel from all brands available on the platform. In her first official photoshoot with StockX, she rotated between items from Nike, New Balance, the Essentials line from Adidas-associated Jerry Lorenzo, and the OVO clothing line from the Nike- and Jordan Brand-associated Drake.

She is expected to continue to wear a variety of brands throughout her collegiate career off the court, leading to an eventual bidding war for her exclusive footwear and apparel endorsement deal with a future brand partner as Bueckers begins her pro career in 2023.