Who is Caitlin Clark? The college star who has transformed women’s basketball

The “Caitlin Clark Effect”, as it has been known, has transformed women’s basketball forever in terms of viewing ratings, attendance, merchandise and off-the-court endorsement deals.

Caitlin Clark has propelled women’s basketball into a new space, becoming an icon for the sport, while leaving a lasting imprint throughout American society and culture – all by the age of 22. 

Clark, from West Des Moines, Iowa, made her college debut for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2020 and was drafted #1 overall in the WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever last month.

In the last four years, she has been immortalised as the greatest scorer in college basketball history, racking up 3,951 points across four seasons.

In March, she passed basketball great Pete Maravich for the all-time National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) points record, held for more than half a century.

Clark’s playing style has been notably compared to NBA superstar Stephen Curry, while inspiring a whole new generation of basketball fans across the globe.

The “Caitlin Clark Effect”, as it has been known, has transformed women’s basketball forever. Here’s how she has achieved it.

The ratings game

This year’s Iowa-South Carolina national championship game averaged 18.9 million viewers, up 89% on the year before – making it the highest-rated basketball game in five years, men’s or women’s, at any level. South Carolina won the game 87-75.

At its peak, the match was being viewed by 24 million people across America.

Clark’s presence in WNBA will be game-changing

To put that into perspective, the 2023 WNBA Finals averaged 728,000 viewers over four games – with 889,000 tuning in to witness the Las Vegas Aces’ championship win.

Of the 12 WNBA teams, the Indiana Fever had the second-lowest attendance in 2023, with the Fever only playing on TV once.

According to Vivid Seats, average ticket prices of games including the Fever have more than doubled, all before she got drafted.

At least 36 of the Fever’s 40 regular season games are to be shown on TV and streaming platforms – the most in the WNBA.

Draft Night

In April, Clark was selected No 1 overall by the Indiana Fever at the WNBA Draft, drawing an average of 2.45 million viewers.

This marks a 307% increase in viewership over the 2023 edition, which drew only 572,000 viewers.

The previous WNBA Draft ratings record was set in 2004, being viewed by 600,000 people.

Sports retailer Fanatics says Clark’s #22 jersey for the Fever also became an instant hit, becoming the top-selling jersey ever for a draft pick in any sport. This record was later broken by Caleb Williams after the Chicago Bears drafted him #1 overall in the NFL Draft.


All before turning pro, the 22-year-old has signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade, State Farm and Panini – something that was previously in breach of NCAA regulations until 2021.

Name, Image, Likeness database On3 says Clark has made $3.1m (£2.4m) from sponsorships in college.

At the draft, Clark became the first basketball star – WNBA or NBA – to be dressed by Prada.

Clark has reportedly signed an eight-year $28m (£22.4m) contract with Nike, including her own signature shoe.

The #1 pick also made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, racking up millions of views on social media.

Salary Disparity

Clark is set to earn a salary of $76,535 (£61,384) for her rookie season.

In contrast, last year’s No. 1 NBA Draft pick – Victor Wembanyama – signed a $55m four-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs, according to sports contract tracker Spotrac.

Clark’s earnings on the court are only 0.6% of Wembanyama’s first NBA contract.

The future

The Iowa legend has increased viewing ratings, attendance, and merchandise sales to unprecedented heights.

Off the court, her star power has opened burgeoning financial opportunities for student-athletes, as well as for female basketball players.

Clark’s prominence has also ignited the debate surrounding the significant inequality between male and female sporting contracts in the US. – Sky News

By Seb Sadler

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