Jonquel Jones won the 2021 WNBA MVP award as a near-unanimous pick after a dominant season as the Connecticut Sun forward. Not to mention her “Mother of Dragons” success with her national team at EuroBasket.
The marketing opportunities to be named the best didn’t follow, however. Unlike his recent NBA counterpart, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, there are no big deals with Nike or Budweiser. She also didn’t have the marketing or dealing opportunities of other WNBA stars.
In a tweet on Friday, she called it “a whole popularity and political contest in [women’s basketball].”
Jones, 28, wrote in three tweets:
“It’s quite a contest of popularity and politics in [women’s basketball]. In [men’s basketball] you just have to [sic] be the best. In [women’s basketball] you must [sic] to be the best player, the most beautiful, the most marketable, the most subscribed to IG, just to sit at the approval table. Thank God for [playing] abroad because my bag would have been fumbled.
“I’m glad they pay me what I’m worth and see the value in me for just being one of the best at my craft.
“Not to mention that I’m a black lesbian. Lord, the seats disappear from the table as I speak.”
Players can earn a lot more money playing for certain foreign clubs. Jones re-signed with the Sun as an unrestricted free agent. She would earn a base annual salary of $205,000 for the 2022 WNBA season.
Female athletes fight for a piece of the marketing pie
Female athletes have been largely excluded from marketing and promotion opportunities. Less than 1% of all sports sponsorship funds go to women’s sports. And there are things that play into that, like race, sexual orientation, and beauty standards.
Some WNBA players have large national sponsorship deals. Adidas released a signature shoe, a rarity for female athletes, early in Candace Parker’s career and recently unveiled the signature “Ace” collection. He also increased his contingent of WNBA players last year. Puma is working on a signature shoe for Breanna Stewart which the two-time champion says will likely be released in August.
They are two of the best known and most popular players in the WNBA, while also being among the best in the world. Each has won a championship in the past two seasons. But one could argue that their colleges (Tennessee for Parker, Connecticut for Stewart) each helped them gain that initial popularity that blossomed into mass commercialization and then headlines. Both married their wives and had children (or have a child on the way in Parker’s case) in recent years, long after their marketability was established.
Jones, a Bahamas native, is in a smaller market — though heavily invested in women’s basketball — and dated George Washington.
Companies are beginning to recognize the investment in women’s sports with player and league endorsement deals. Interest is growing, but it is slowly improving and there are still concerns.