Louisiana State gymnast Olivia Dunne is one of the most recognizable athletes on social media.
The 20-year-old college junior has 2.4 million Instagram followers, and industry analysts estimate her NIL evaluation to be worth the same. One Dunne social media post is worth $31,000.
North Jersey’s college standout and is well-known in athletics. The Hillsdale native has a lengthy history with the Eastern National Academy of Paramus, which she represented at national and international events, including periods with the U.S. national team.
Dunne has amazing athletic accomplishments. All-American in her first year at LSU. In this brave new world of NIL, her legacy will likely be her impact on college athletics.
Thanks to new laws set in place in the summer of 2021, collegiate athletes can earn off their name, image, and likeness through sponsorship deals – and what a year and a half it’s been.
The economics of NIL is complex — and sometimes, private. Dunne’s salary is unknown. Earlier this month, she told The New York Times that her earnings are somewhere in the “seven figures.”
“I’m proud of that,” she told The Times. “Especially considering I’m a woman in college sports.” She added: “There are no professional leagues for most women’s sports after college.”
In the first days of NIL, women were shaping up to be clear winners. Female college athletes have historically been on the receiving end of less investment and less airtime — which ultimately translates to less profit when compared to the male side of collegiate athletics.
Title IX requires college athletic departments to invest equally in male and female sports, but experts say a lack of enforcement can mask these discrepancies.
NIL in many respects is a silver lining for female athletes. No athlete before them could make a living playing sport. As Dunne noted, women’s sports post-college earnings are restricted.
Dunne’s achievement is remarkable. Experts say that her profits outperform her classmates’ by a landslide, according to statistics collected by ON3, a collegiate athletics digital media, data, and marketing organization. The agency last month released the top 10 NIL valuations for female college athletes.
Topping that list is Dunne. With 8.74 million followers combined on all social media platforms, Dunne has a NIL price of $2.3 million and $31,000 per post value.
For comparison, the second athlete on the list is fellow gymnast Sunisa Lee, who became a national sensation last summer after capturing Olympic gold with Team USA in Tokyo. With 31.5 million followers, Lee has a NIL valuation of $1.5 million and a $21,000 per post value.
NIL, of course, is not immune to the bigger concerns plaguing women’s sports. Only two athletes of color, including Lee, made that top 10.
Athletes of color historically reel in substantially less money and media attention than their colleagues, as shown in several pro leagues like the WNBA. NIL renews this discourse and gives a chance to level the playing field.
Dunne is a passionate athlete despite her NIL success.
In a 2020 video shared on her club’s Instagram account, a 17-year-old Dunne talks about being team captain, what she likes to do outside of her sport, and her best success as a gymnast thus far.
She discusses gymnastics. “Gymnastics feels like defying gravity for a brief second—and then you need to be ready for the landing,” she explains.
Dunne is challenging the 2022 female college athlete stereotype. Her next destination will be exciting.