How Much Will Caitlin Clark Earn As The Projected #1 Pick In The WNBA?

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Iowa basketball phenom Caitlin Clark has dominated the college game, setting the NCAA career scoring record with over 3,500 points. Now the consensus National Player of the Year is set to take her talents to the pros as the projected #1 overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft.

But how much can Clark expect to earn as a rookie compared to her lucrative career as a college athlete?

Clark’s Salary and Endorsements at Iowa

At Iowa, Clark has earned $0 in direct salary, as NCAA rules prohibit pay for play. However, she has built up a small fortune in name, image and likeness (NIL) endorsement deals. Clark currently has agreements with major brands like Nike, Gatorade, State Farm and more that compensate her for sponsorship and promotional work.

These NIL deals are estimated to be worth around $800,000 per year for Clark. It’s an unprecedented amount for a female college athlete, demonstrating her incredible marketability and stardom.

Products like her own branded cereal line with Hy-Vee supermarkets and custom Iowa Hawkeyes trading cards have further increased her endorsement earnings.

Projected WNBA Salary As #1 Draft Pick

As the consensus first overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, Clark is projected to sign with the Indiana Fever. All top 4 draft picks receive the same rookie salary in their first year, which will be $76,535 for the 2024 season.

This figure is several times higher than the maximum NIL compensation allowed for college athletes, but still a significant pay cut from Clark’s estimated $800,000 in Iowa deals.

However, WNBA salaries quickly escalate in a player’s second year and beyond. If Clark signs a standard 3-year rookie contract, she would make around $185,000 in year two and $379,000 in year three. Stars like Breanna Stewart earn over $220,000 annually once they become veterans in the league.

Endorsement Potential As #1 Pick

While her direct WNBA salary will be a reduction initially, Clark’s endorsement prospects remain incredibly strong. Her Nike, Gatorade and State Farm deals will almost certainly carry over to the pro level.

As the #1 pick and new face of the Fever, Clark will gain national media attention that opens up more partnership opportunities.

Though the WNBA still faces challenges reaching the popularity and exposure of men’s sports, Clark has a chance to expand her reach. Well-marketed stars like Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi and Sabrina Ionescu earn millions from endorsement work. With Clark’s college fame and highlight-reel skills, sponsors will line up to feature her in national campaigns.

Some conservatively estimate Clark could earn around $1 million total in her rookie year between the $76,535 salary and roughly $800,000 to $1 million in continued endorsements and new deals.

But if she truly breaks out into a crossover star, major brands may pay well over $1 million annually to align with Caitlin Clark.

The Power of Marketing in the WNBA

While WNBA player salaries remain modest compared to other pro leagues, top athletes can supplement their income through sponsorships. Stars are now pulling in seven-figure endorsement deals from companies highlighting their stories.

Candace Parker’s profile expanded greatly after leaving college, as she became the first WNBA player to grace the cover of NBA 2K and earned a contract with Adidas. Diana Taurasi’s 10-year, $6.5 million deal with Mercury shows the earning potential for elite veterans.

Clark enters with the popularity to attract both endemic sponsors like Nike and mainstream brands like the food, insurance and financial companies she partnered with in college.

As the WNBA rises in visibility and high-profile stars gain mainstream traction, Clark can become one of the highest-paid athletes in women’s basketball through on-court play and off-court marketing opportunities.

The Ceiling is High for Caitlin

There is no definitive figure on what Clark will earn in the WNBA next season. But her incredible achievements in college and superstar potential put her in prime position to maximize her marketing power.

While the rookie salary of around $80,000 will be a pay cut initially, Clark’s overall endorsement earnings could meet or exceed her estimated $800,000 in NIL deals at Iowa.

If she leads Indiana to new success and expands her celebrity status, nine-figure lifetime endorsement deals could be in play. The combination of her rookie contract salary and sponsorship earnings should net Caitlin Clark around $1 million immediately, with room to grow into one of the WNBA’s highest-paid stars in the near future.

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