The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Basketball to business: Caitlin Clark’s economic impact

Caitlin Clark makes a tremendous impact on local Iowa City businesses.
Isabella Tisdale
A member of Raygun staff works on Hannah Stuelke shirts at the Raygun Printing Facility in Des Moines on Feb. 9, 2024. Raygun increased their supply of Stuelke shirts following her record-breaking 47 point game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena the previous night.

Caitlin Clark has sent waves through the world of women’s sports — and the economy.

The former Iowa women’s basketball guard’s skyrocketing fame generated an abundance of economic possibilities for Iowa City businesses. According to The Common Sense Institute, Clark’s success generated $82.5 million in consumer spending across the state of Iowa over the past three basketball seasons.

Acai shop Everbowl on South Madison Street showcased its support for the women’s basketball team by offering a special discount, manager Madison Law, said. The store slashed the price of its signature acai bowl from $10.99 to just $2.22 on Feb. 22, coinciding with Clark’s jersey number, No. 22.

“One of the best business days we’ve ever had at the store, over 1,000 people showed up,” Law said. “We’ve seen a lot of those same customers come back after that, it’s helped business a lot in the long run.”

RAYGUN, which operates a chain of T-shirt shops in the Midwest, saw success in its Iowa City location by forging deals and partnerships with the women’s basketball team.

RAYGUN Manager Ky Schutzman said the impact of their legal collaborations with the team through their Name, Image, and Likeness, or NIL, deals, grew their business substantially.

“Our store in particular has been doing significantly better since we’ve been doing NIL stuff,” Schutzman said. “For each of the players, we just reached out to them or their agents, to see if they were interested in that, and they were given 20 percent of the earnings.”

Contrary to this, Think Iowa City President Josh Schamberger said Clark’s widespread fame has resulted in unauthorized production of merchandise using her name and brand.

These unauthorized products violate licensing agreements and exploit Clark’s success without her or the team’s permission.

Dale Arens, the trademark and licensing director at the University of Iowa, said the process of partnering or utilizing Clark’s brand or name for profit involves an intricate legal process.

“If someone wanted to propose a T-shirt design with Caitlin on it, we don’t move forward until or unless Caitlin has granted permission,” Arens stated. “In Caitlin’s case, there weren’t many of those relationships. There were only four products that had ‘Iowa’ marks on it, and they were all Nike products.”

Arens said Clark’s achievements are not confined to her gender. Instead, her success resonates strongly with both male and female basketball enthusiasts, positioning her as a symbol of equality in sports viewership. This has become increasingly evident, particularly with the release of Clark’s trading cards in stores.

“Traditional collectors are guys, but cross-generational, boys and girls are buying Caitlin Clark cards,” Arens said. “They’re seeing the potential with new demographics and collecting.”

Arens said the interest from investors purchasing the cards with the intention of resale was unexpected.

“Someone from Topps told me they sold out of her series in seven minutes. A lot of investors trying to buy these things, just as a speculative investment, for the purpose of reselling,” Arens said.

Schamberger said Clark’s sudden rise to fame has provided financial benefit to each sector of Iowa City’s economy. He noted the hospitality industry in particular has seen the most success.

“The restaurant sector first and foremost has been most successful, along with hotels of course. They generate a lot of tourism,” Schamberger said.

Jay LeaVesseur, a manager at the Graduate Iowa City hotel, explained how the “Clark Effect” hit Iowa City in full volume as Clark’s final season as a Hawkeye neared its end.

“There was a definite quantifiable uptick during home games the back side of the season, especially when she was breaking records and such,” LeaVesseur said. “We would probably see 20 rooms a game, directly related to people attending. It was definitely noticeable.”

The Graduate emphasizes its convenient location near Carver-Hawkeye Arena, specifically targeting basketball enthusiasts through its website.

The website offers an exclusive 15 percent discount for men’s and women’s basketball fans, providing a tailored experience for those attending games.

This high revenue being brought in from women’s basketball coincides with Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s overall season attendance numbers. Comparing her first 2020-21 season and her final 2023-24 season at Iowa, Clark and the team had generated roughly 220,000 additional attendants over the course of those four seasons, according to The Common Sense Institute.

The average out-of-state Iowa Women’s Basketball attendee will spend roughly $230 in Iowa City per visit. Clark has brought in an additional 38,000 out-of-state fans to Carver-Hawkeye Arena in her final year, showing her impact on and off the court.

Arens added that he thinks Clark’s success has transformed the perception of women’s basketball, going from background noise to must-watch television. Arens said he believes her fame will carry over to her post-collegiate career with the Indiana Fever.

“When we look back on this 10 years from now, what will the WNBA look like?” Arens said. “The turning point may just be Caitlin Clark.”

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About the Contributor
Isabella Tisdale
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.