More than a dozen years after the Bella Twins’ debut, the WWE is diving into the college game with the help of another familiar set of identical siblings.
Fresno State basketball players Hanna and Haley Cavinder are headlining the inaugural class of the WWE’s new NIL program, Next in Line, designed to develop and recruit college athletes interested in working with the wrestling giant. With nearly 4 million TikTok followers, the Cavinder sisters have become the faces of the NIL era, signing partnerships with various companies including Boost Mobile, PSD Underwear, Eastbay and more.
The Cavinders can potentially use WWE’s bevy of media resources to further expand their brand, while WWE (NYSE: WWE) can leverage the twins’ influence to grow their fan base and drive more overall engagement. Icon Source vice president of collegiate Drew Butler says the twins have been “open for business” since their deal with Boost Mobile, which started on the first day of the NIL era on July 1.
“They understand the platform and influence that they have, and they’re not shying away from any opportunity,” said Butler, who leads college deals for the digital marketplace. “That’s probably why WWE wanted to reach out to them…. Now, they have an opportunity to go out and create a successful, interesting endorsement opportunity.”
Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson was the first athlete WWE signed to an NIL deal in September. The inaugural class, which features Oklahoma State wrestler A.J. Ferrari and Michigan wrestler Mason Parris, represents the latest investment into NIL from the media and entertainment company. The class includes 15 athletes across four sports and 13 schools. The terms of the deals were not disclosed.
Aleeya Hutchins (Wake Forest, track and field); Riley White (Alabama, track and field); Dalton Wagner (Arkansas, football); Joe Spivak (Northwestern, football); Jon Seaton (Elon, football); John Krahn (football, Portland State); Glen Logan (LSU, football); Lexi Gordon (Duke, basketball); Issac Odugbesan (Alabama, track and field); Masai Russell (Kentucky, track and field); and Carlos Aviles (Ohio State, track and field) round out the class.
WWE announced the formation of the NIL program last week. “Next in Line” aims to provide a clearer pathway for college athletes looking to make the transition to WWE. The company says that it may offer contracts to select athletes once they’ve completed the program.