These twin sisters are faculty basketball stars and have Three million TikTok followers. Now they’re cashing in | Information
If you’re not a huge college tire fan or a regular at TikTok, you may not know Haley and Hanna Cavinder.
But they ring in a new era in university sports.
The twin sisters, stars of the Fresno State women’s basketball team, are arguably the leading faces of the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) movement that now enables top college athletes to make money from their talents and fame.
The Cavinders became official business partners this month after the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which reversed decades of policy, approved a tentative rule change that allows student athletes to monetize their social media followers and land lucrative advertising deals.
On July 1, the day the new rules went into effect, the sisters were in New York City, interviewing media and celebrating advertising deals with two companies: wireless operator Boost Mobile and Six Star Pro Nutrition, a sports supplement maker. The Boost deal was trumpeted on a giant electronic billboard in Times Square. Dozens of other college athletes across the country announced similar offers.
“This is a big move for any student athlete,” Haley Cavinder told ESPN during the twins’ sudden media flash. “The ability to use your name, picture, and likeness is something we all deserve, and I am truly grateful that this is finally happening to the NCAA.”
Advertising and marketing experts estimate that with 3.4 million followers on TikTok, the Cavinders could make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
And it all started with videos they made last year in quarantine against boredom.
As twins, they are a unique brand
The college juniors are both 1.70 m tall – too small for Division 1 basketball – and major in business. They rarely wear matching outfits, but their basketball stats are almost identical.
Haley Cavinder finished last season with a points average of 19.8 points per game, while her sister scored 17 points. Haley Cavinder was named Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference and both sisters were selected twice for the Conference.
“Haley and Hanna are gifted with unique qualities, such as twin sisters who both excel in Division I basketball, but their off-court fame goes far beyond that,” said Frank Pucher, senior associate athletics director, Fresno State.
“They represent the modern university athlete perfectly. They are incredibly hardworking in their sport, they are academically outstanding and have clearly considered and defined their way beyond the sport.”
The pandemic closed campus right after its freshman season. But in April last year, with extra time, Hanna persuaded her sister to join her TikTok and make playful videos under a joint account.
The twins filmed themselves doing synchronized dance moves, lip-syncing, threesomes, and dribbling basketballs to hip-hop beats, and they began to build a following. One of the dribbling dance clips released in August 2020 has more than 27 million views.
“During the quarantine, we wanted to do TikToks like the rest of the world,” Hanna Cavinder told the Fresno Bee. “Everyone was just there trying to find something to do and after that it just started to grow and grow. It just happened.”
By spring 2021, they had more than 3 million followers on TikTok, as well as sizable followers on YouTube and Instagram, which makes them valuable to advertisers and sponsors trying to reach a diverse audience outside of basketball.
Her growing online fame has further increased her popularity with the Fresno state fan base.
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“They are the fans’ favorites, partly because of their fame off the field,” said Pucher, “but even more because of their style of play and their success on the field.”
You started playing basketball before preschool
Haley and Hanna attended high school in the suburbs of Phoenix and are not the first athletes in their family. Her father, Tom Cavinder, played basketball for Nova Southeastern in Florida.
Before the twins started preschool, they were already playing basketball and checking for exercises on YouTube, their parents told YourCentralValley, a news site in Fresno. Up to sixth grade they competed in boys’ leagues.
“They seemed super competitive from the start,” said her mother Katie Cavinder.
When they were three or four years old, just jumping in the family pool wasn’t enough for them – they did back flips, said Tom Cavinder. When the girls first ran on the ice rink, they were moving as they had for years. They ran backwards on their second lap around the rink, he said.
“You have a chip on your shoulder because of your size,” said her father.
Before they even reached high school, the twins were getting offers from colleges to play basketball. But her fame hasn’t changed her, he said.
“They’re good kids, they go to church alone … they really care about other people,” said Tom Cavinder. “When you take all that basketball stuff away, we want all of our girls to be good people and we want them to build their own successes.”
Student athletes jump into uncharted waters
College athletics ranks billions of dollars, but the NCAA has long argued that restrictions are necessary on student athletes to ensure they retain amateur status and not blur the line between college and professional sports.
Until that month, the Cavinders and other college athletes were considered amateurs by the NCAA and were not allowed to self-market.
Now they are jumping into uncharted waters, hoping to get a piece of the lucrative pie. Up to 460,000 NCAA student athletes across the country can now sign up for sponsorship deals, and major consumer brands are exploring this untapped market.
The NCAA says its interim policy on NILs will remain in effect until federal laws are passed or new rules are passed.
Meanwhile, the Cavinder twins are expanding their portfolio of recommendations through a deal with GoPuff, an app that delivers items from convenience stores. And they still dance to their own tune.
The CNN Wire
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