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Athletes Unlimited Expands Partnership with Nike

Nike will not just provide uniforms and shoes for AU athletes, but invest in the culture and development of women’s sports in communities near and far.

This week, Athletes Unlimited made history as the first women’s sports league to be named “World’s Most Innovative Companies” by Fast Company — and the three-year-old brand is additionally celebrating an expanded alliance with sportswear partner Nike. As AU announced Friday, The Swoosh will continue its mission to provide its signature top-quality uniforms and footwear for all Athletes Unlimited sports — softball, lacrosse, volleyball, and basketball — while contributing additional support toward grassroots and community events to shape the future of sports for women across the country.

“To have a partner like Nike that is engaging with Athletes Unlimited, supporting Athletes Unlimited, and leveraging its talent and relationship to help Athletes Unlimited is tremendous,” Athletes Unlimited CEO and co-founder Jon Patricof told Boardroom. “It can really change the game, especially for a company that has such incredible brand equity, a strong reach and so much creativity.”

Nike’s expanded partnership also signifies another key theme: women’s sports are not a trend, but rather a bonafide collective institution with respect to fan enthusiasm and business backing. AU Basketball advisory board member and 35V CMO Sarah Flynn said it best:

“Over the last several years, leaders in women’s sports have echoed the same refrain: If you make women’s sports more accessible to watch, the audience will follow. When Athletes Unlimited launched, it created an unconventional — and, it turns out, wildly successful — response to that thesis. By creating a women’s sports league that grants opportunities to players outside of other leagues’ regular seasons, AU has created more games to watch, more player visibility, and more revenue opportunities across the board, And they’ve done so with a business model that puts its talent at the center.”

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After a successful first season of AU Basketball, year two is officially up and running — this time from Dallas, Texas. From Feb. 23 until March 25, some of women’s basketball’s most talented athletes will push for victory for their teams while simultaneously striving for standout individual performances to put them in the running for MVP recognition. AU athletes earn points in the race for top honors based on assists, steals, blocks, and more; however, they can also lose credit due to fouls, turnovers, missed free throws, and other violations.

In speaking to Boardroom, Patricof identified the successes AU Basketball has made in the last year, especially when it comes to retaining key players.

“I think why we’re able to achieve so much more is because of our partnership with the athletes. It’s worth pointing out how they continue to play such a huge role in how the league is run and organized,” he said. “In a short period of time, they’ve also come to understand the values of the organization. That’s the biggest, most important factor in Athletes Unlimited, and our key factor for success since day one has been the athletes having a positive experience and wanting to return. And so having players now coming back for their second year or getting involved in other capacities has me so excited about the potential for 2023 and beyond.”

Select games from Athletes Unlimited Basketball are available to stream on CBS Sports Network, WNBA League Pass, the Women’s Sports Network, and Bally Sports’ regional sports networks. Later this month, Athletes Unlimited will also launch the Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Exhibition Tour featuring a team of its professional athletes traveling across the United States to play a series of friendlies against top college programs, while promoting the sport at a grassroots level and previewing the fall championship season.

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About The Author
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. She began her career in sports journalism with bylines at SB Nation, USA Today and, most recently, Yahoo. She received a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Truman State University and when she's not watching old clips of Serena Williams' best matches, she is likely perfecting her signature chocolate chip cookie recipe or preparing a traditional Cameroonian meal.