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Simone Biles Olympic Gymnast

Female Athletes Value Brand Connection Over Cash

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lite female athletes are stepping down from major sponsors, as they prioritize brand connection over money. 

In April this year, America’s greatest gymnast of all time, Simone Biles, walked away from the $30.4 billion dollar brand, Nike, in a new sponsorship deal with the women’s sportswear brand Athleta.

Biles is one of the many female athletes who claim to have sought a partnership that benefited the athlete’s health outside of performance metrics and allowed them to pursue activism beyond the sport. 

Simone Biles told Women’s Health, “I was so young.”

“Partnering with Nike was one of my dreams, but when I got older, I started thinking more about what my passion projects were and how my sponsor was going to help me with those.

“As I’m getting older, I need to think about when I’m not doing sport and how I can help outside of the sport, outside of being an athlete.

“Once you really look into potential brand sponsors, you want to start thinking about, how can we help each other to do good rather than me being the face of what they want to put out there?” said Biles.

Olga Harvey, chief strategy and impact officer at the Women’s Sports Foundation, commented on Biles’s move, “There are more companies than ever interested in telling the stories of female athletes, and investing both in women’s sports leagues and in individual female athletes.”

“It’s exciting to see the power of women’s sports and female athletes being recognized. 

“Obviously, financial rewards are amazing, but you want to align with the companies that share your values,” she said. 

However, Biles is also not the first female athlete to walk away from Nike.

Among the list of athletes leaving the company for ethical reasons are Breanna Stewart, Mary Cain, Colleen Quigley, and Allyson Felix.

Felix departed in 2019 after she said the company wanted to pay her 70% less following her pregnancy, who later also joined Athleta to become their first sponsored athlete.

The chain reaction of athletes leaving the brand has left Nike scratching their heads.

Now we look forward to seeing how Emma McKeon, Australia’s most successful Olympian, will be represented on the blocks, following her gold Olympic sweep.