LSU, Oregon Women’s Basketball Stars Venture Into Business Ownership

Last Updated on May 24, 2024

A unique trend is emerging among college athletes that goes beyond the traditional use of name, image, and likeness for income generation. This trend involves strategic ownership, where athletes align themselves with opportunities that promise long-term wealth. Notable examples include LSU basketball star Flau’jae Johnson and Oregon standout guard Deja Kelly, who have purchased equity stakes in Bazooka Candy Brands, a company renowned for its Bazooka bubble gum, Ring Pops, and Push Pops.

These athletes are part of a larger group, including the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons, and Boston Celtics forward Derrick White, who is associated with the sports-focused investment firm PatriCof Co. 

Kelly has achieved tremendous success within the NIL space, recently becoming the first athlete to sign with the American fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger. She also hosts a podcast called NILOSOPHY, which highlights stories in the age of NIL. Kelly spoke highly of Bazooka Candy Brands’ influence and entertainment value.

“Bazooka Candy Brands’ emphasis on entertainment is perfect for athletes like me who pride ourselves on having diverse talents both on and off-court,” she said. “As an athlete, creator, and investor, I could not be more excited to collaborate with such an iconic brand and help find ways to contribute to the overall growth of the company.”

North Carolina player Deja Kelly during the ACC Women’s Basketball Tip-Off in Charlotte, NC. Photo courtesy: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports via Imagn

Johnson has now added ownership to her impressive NIL portfolio, which includes brand partnerships with Powerade, JBL, and Amazon. Beyond her athletic achievements, Johnson is a successful hip-hop artist. Her ownership deal with Bazooka Candy Brands is a testament to her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to leveraging her influence across multiple industries.

Although they took a brief hiatus from college basketball, twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder have been no strangers to ownership. Since the start of the NIL era in 2021, the twins have been notable names within the field, consistently leveraging their influence via social media. Further, Haley and Hanna Cavinder have equity positions in Betr Holdings, a company co-founded by celebrity boxer Jake Paul. The partnership will enable the twins to produce sports-focused content and appear on Betr’s media platform as on-air personalities. Furthermore, the twins are also investors and ambassadors for the all-natural protein beverage Slate Milk. 

“Slate Milk presents a unique opportunity to not only invest our capital but provide our NIL in a way that truly epitomizes our passions on and off the court,” Hanna Cavinder said.

Slate’s investor group includes athlete investors such as Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders, Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat, and Terance Mann of the Los Angeles Clippers.

As NIL transitions into its third year, we can expect more high-profile college athletes to engage in opportunities that will allow them to obtain ownership. This shift will likely inspire a new generation of athletes to view their brands as long-term investments rather than short-term gains. Integrating ownership into NIL deals will provide athletes with more financial stability while empowering them to contribute to the business ventures they support. Ultimately, this evolution in NIL strategies will reshape the landscape of college athletics, fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and strategic investment among college athletes.

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