The growing commercial power of women’s football reached a significant milestone, as Ada Hegerberg became the first female player to sign the same type of career-long Nike sponsorship deal as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Serena Williams and LeBron James.
The former Ballon d’Or winner and Norwegian star, has signed a lucrative long-term sponsorship deal with the sportswear brand as a global ambassador for the next ten years, effectively until the end of her career as a professional footballer.
Hegerberg’s contract is the latest step toward gender parity for Nike. The full terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but sources say the 24-year-old will earn upward of €1.1 million over the life of the deal, edging her closer to deals for male players at her level.
The deal may not be as financially lucrative as those of her male counterparts but marks a significant step for the women’s game to receive backing from a global brand to a female footballer for a sustained period of time.
“For me personally, this is a groundbreaking step in my career,” Hegerberg said during a Zoom interview. “I feel like Nike has inspired millions of people in sports and they’re kind of the game changer in sports when it comes to lifting the women in sports as well and setting the bar. Hopefully this partnership can write history again back on the pitch when I’m back again.”
Nike has publicly supported efforts to reduce pay disparity between men and women athletes, including ad campaigns centered around the support for players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team and their demands for fair pay after winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Hegerberg, who plays for Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018 and has won the UEFA Champions League four times with Lyon.
Hegerberg has been vocal about her feelings on equal pay and left the Norwegian national team in 2017 to protest how the country was treating its women’s team. She has yet to return, even after it eventually did grant the women’s team equal pay. She declined to comment on her departure from the team and said she will continue to fight for equal pay, no matter how things go when play resumes.
“It’s very important for the leaders of the sport, of women’s sports as well, that they keep their voices clear, and that we don’t fall out of the discussion when things start back again,” Hegerberg says.