The morning after she scored 24 points to help Maryland women’s basketball upset conference rival Iowa in February, Brinae Alexander hopped on Twitter to thank fans for their support.
“Last night was amazing Terp Nation, the fans really showed out!!!” she wrote, punctuating her tweet with the fire and turtle emojis.
“Now go buy my shirt lol,” she added, followed by a winking emoji.
The post linked to a t-shirt that featured a collage of photos of Alexander in her No. 5 Maryland jersey and her name in sparkling block letters. Her shop has expanded since then to include multiple designs and products.
Alexander’s merchandise line became possible after a July 2021 Supreme Court case struck down NCAA restrictions on college athletes’ ability to be compensated for their name, image and likeness and prompted sweeping change in the college athletics NIL landscape.
Alexander isn’t the only current or former Maryland women’s basketball player taking advantage of NIL 0pportunities. Diamond Miller, Faith Masonius and Shyanne Sellers have each launched clothing lines in the past year.
The four all worked with different brands to bring their unique visions to life, but each represents the plethora of opportunities available to female athletes in the NIL era.
Women’s basketball players make up 12.6 percent of all NIL deals listed in NIL marketplace Opendorse – the third most of any sport behind football and men’s basketball.
But sponsorships for female athletes are growing at a faster rate, increasing by 20 percent from September 2021 to September 2022, in contrast to a two percent increase seen for male athletes, according to a 2022 women in sports report from sponsorship tracker SponsorUnited.
Public NIL data is often unreliable and inaccurate, according to recent analysis from The Diamondback. Opendorse provides a platform for athletes to promote themselves and their brand and tries to quantify NIL statistics, but the service provides an incomplete picture of the NIL ecosystem for college athletes.
Alexander, who transferred to Maryland from Vanderbilt in 2022, knew she would find more opportunities to grow her brand at a bigger school. She combined her love for fashion with her position on the court through a collaboration with apparel company Brown Boy Nation.
The process worked differently for each athlete. Masonius wanted her design to represent her as a person and not just a basketball player. She partnered with Vintage Brand, which sent her a few designs at a time and she provided feedback on.
“I am pretty creative,” Masonius said. “It’s fun to be able to kind of show that side of me outside my being an athlete.”
The final design, available on everything from sweatshirts to coffee mugs, features her No. 13, her initials and 10 dots at the bottom for the 10 Masonius children. The sixth dot — representing Faith Masonius — pops in a different color..
Masonius’ family is a huge part of her identity, so the graduate student wanted to share that part of herself through her merchandise’s design. Vintage Brand sent the apparel to all nine of her siblings and her parents. Masonius even receives pictures of her mom wearing her branded shirt on game days.
But the design process didn’t go smoothly for everyone.
Miller, who worked with Barstool Sports, was surprised when she didn’t like the first design option the company presented to her. She wanted to include a gemstone on the shirt as an homage to her first name, she said, which proved difficult to execute in the early stages of the design process. But those complications afforded Miller the opportunity to speak up and take control of her brand.
“NIL gives you a voice that you never had before in advocating for yourself,” Miller said. “You got to understand that this is your brand so if you don’t like something, you have to speak up.”
At a team signing event, Miller saw her hard work on the design pay off. When a few girls approached her to ask for an autograph, Miller noticed they were wearing her gear – specifically, a black t-shirt with the word “Miller” spanning a gold and red diamond. It was the first time she had seen fans wear her merchandise.
“I was like so shocked because [when] you put it out, you don’t know who actually buys it,” she said. “I was so happy actually, it melt my heart.”
Sellers, whose “Never Shy About Buckets” collection sports an image of her signature goggles, first saw the gear on her family. She grew up in a family of basketball players, which includes her father and former NBA player Brad Sellers.
But now, it’s the younger Sellers’ turn to be the star of the family.
“My mom used to rock my dad’s stuff, but it’s kind of cool seeing that they’re all able to rock mine,” she said.
Although Alexander’s family also sports her gear, she was surprised to see how far her brand could reach after a high school friend sent her a photo of his dad wearing her shirt.
It was important for Alexander to “lock in” on NIL opportunities because it provides her and other athletes the opportunity to earn money and set themselves up for life after college sports. Seeing people wear her gear is just one step in that process.
“I realized like how far of a reach I truly have, and it made me happy and excited,” she said.