Ada Hegerberg signs groundbreaking contract with Nike
Soccer star’s career continues to draw attention
The Norwegian American
Norway may have a love-hate relationship with Ada Hegerberg, but the 24-year-old soccer superstar keeps making groundbreaking moves for women in the sport.
First, she was named the best women’s player in Europe in 2015-16. In 2018, she was the first woman to get the Ballon d’Or, Golden Ball, as the best women’s soccer player in the world, an honor that drew congratulations from non-Norwegian and Norwegian athletes—but not from her former national squad teammates. The three-year contract she signed with French power Lyon in 2018 made her the best paid women’s player in the world. According to France Football, her salary is over NOK 4 million ($431,554).
Then on June 8, Hegerberg’s lucrative 10-year contract with sports footwear and apparel giant Nike was announced. Nike also inked Natasha Cloud of the Washington Mystics in the Women’s National Basketball Association as the first female athlete to promote the Converse brand.
Though neither Hegerberg nor Nike would disclose the amount of the deal, VG reported it is about NOK 10 million (almost $1.1 million), a comparable sum to male athletes’ contracts. Forbes.com reported there will be annual payments of six figures. Tennis stars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, men’s basketball star LeBron James, men’s soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappé, and American women’s soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are among Nike’s endorsed athletes. Hegerberg also has deals with MasterCard and Hublot watches.
“It’s very uplifting and motivating and a big step in my career,” Hegerberg told VG. “This can help take me to the next level. I think it will be incredibly cool. I feel like Nike has inspired millions of people in sports. They are the game changer in sports when it comes to lifting women in sports, as well and setting the bar. Nike and I have a common goal to bring women’s sports to the forefront in the years to come. My performances have brought me to where I am today. I am determined to continue making history with the help of Nike, both on and off the field.”
Having fun with the Nike slogan, Hegerberg—who moved on from Puma—tweeted simply, “Just did it. #Nike.” Announcement of the deal was picked up by a variety of publications, including Forbes.com, bbc.com, Eurosport, Soccer Bible, Scroll.in (India), Footyheadlines.com, Barrons, sportstar.thehindu.com and Yahoo!
She has played six years with Lyon, helping them to four straight Champions League titles with an incredible 282 goals in 271 games. She suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in January and is rehabilitating, though recently there have not been any games due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Now, it’s time to write a new story,” said Hegerberg to VG. “It gives me an extra kick in the rehabilitation. I just have to look at it as opportunities you get from good performance.” Still, she said, “There has to be a balance in it, as I am a soccer player and need the time and energy to be one.”
Despite the attention, Hegerberg admits that she hasn’t specifically sought sponsorship deals. “It has never really been an ambition since I started playing soccer, because this was never something you could dream of, but things have changed over the years. The economy has grown for those at the top. The success has given me many benefits financially, but I hope this can also help others get a more professional life and earn enough money to be a full-time athlete.”
For all the accomplishments she has made to advance women’s equality in soccer, the act of leaving the Norwegian national team in 2017 will never go away for some. Although she says it was over the Norwegian women not being paid the same as the men and the leadership, Hegerberg has never been specific and declines to talk about it. The pay inequity has been resolved but Hegerberg has not returned. The offensive firepower combination of Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen, and Guro Reiten would have been formidable in last year’s World Cup.
Perhaps the attitudes are changing, though, at least with children. She has served as a promoter for the Danone Nations Cup (the world’s largest soccer tournament for children 10 to 12 years old) and UNESCO. In May 2019, an American documentary about the Hegerberg sisters was filmed at Lørenbanen, where many children and adults lined up for autographs, photos, posters, balls, and a chance to look at the Golden Ball trophy. Her manager mother Gerd Stolsmo offered her book Fotballmamma: Historien om Andrine og Ada Hegerberg, vår vei til verdenstoppen (Soccer Mom: The Story of Andrine and Ada Hegerberg, Our Way to the Top).
There is always another battle for women to be fought. Andrine, 27, who plays for Roma in Italy’s Serie A, was among the players who wrote and signed a letter June 8 protesting the axing of the women’s season while the men will resume June 20 following the coronavirus shutdown. “It’s time to elevate our movement!” wrote Andrine on Instagram, as an open letter from “us players … with the wish of being heard and treated as professionals, regardless of gender. It’s time to push the system forward, making growth and to lay the right foundations to push the game forward as professional footballers. It’s time to provide substance and resources.”
There is, as yet, no word about when the Norwegian women’s league will start. France canceled the men’s and women’s seasons April 28. Lyon was declared champions for the 14th straight season. Ada weighed in. “It’s been tough for the men’s football,” she said on Forbes.com, “so obviously, if you look at a historical view, it’s always the weakest link that’s going to suffer from a crisis like this, and I feel like women’s football is still in a phase where we’re the weakest link in football. … 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.”
This article originally appeared in the June 26, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.