Once Fran Belibi heard the pitch, stuffing a basketball for Denny’s sounded like a slam dunk.
“What really got me was their approach behind it,” Belibi, the Stanford women’s basketball forward and former Regis Jesuit star, said of the commercial she filmed earlier this year endorsing the popular restaurant chain. “They were talking about elevating groups or individuals who often don’t get the first opportunities (for exposure).”
Once the partnership with the company included a donation of $25,000 to the Women’s Sports Foundation on behalf of “Super Slam Fran,” the first Colorado women’s high school basketball player to dunk in a game and one of only eight to ever dunk in a Division I women’s college hoops game, the deal was sealed.
“Even having a small chance to help with something like that is what really struck me,” Belibi told The Post recently. “I had to say, ‘Yes.’”
As part of a spot promoting Denny’s “Super Slam” breakfast, the 6-foot-1 Belibi is seen leaping over a gigantic plate of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns, basketball in hand, then dunking the ball on a hoop stationed on the other side of said plate.
In reality, the Centennial native was filmed dunking on a smaller-than-regulation hoop in front of a green screen at a studio in Northern California.
“I wasn’t (really) moving across,” Belibi explained. “The way that the commercial shows it, it looks really crazy and insane and on a wire, but it was the green screen and the movie magic and some Photoshop.”
Belibi said she’s had other branding opportunities now that the NCAA allows student-athletes to profit off of their individual name, image and likeness, or NIL, but Denny’s contribution to the WSF, a nonprofit founded by tennis legend Billie Jean King, pushed it over the top.
While athletes such as Belibi, who have large social media followings, have attracted the interest of companies entering NIL partnerships, female student-athlete NIL dollars and opportunities still lag behind their male counterparts, according to one study.
Opendorse, a Nebraska-based NIL branding and marketing company, reported that as of May 31, clientele from women’s collegiate sports made up 26.5% of the company’s total Division I NIL compensation (compared to 73.5% for men), 32.1% of total compensation for Division II, and 17.1% of compensation for Division III.
Among specific sports, football dwarfed the rest of the field, making up almost half — 49.9% of the company’s total NIL compensation. Men’s basketball was next at 17.0%, with women’s hoops, at 15.7%, close behind. Women’s volleyball (2.3%) and softball (2.1%) rounded out the company’s top 5 sports.
Belibi said she couldn’t have made the leap — computer-generated or otherwise — from student-athlete to commercial star without Title IX, which turns 50 later this month.
“A lot of the times, when I think of Title IX, it’s kind of just in sports, just the idea that (the playing field) has to be equal,” Belibi said. “I think this year, especially, I’m learning that Title IX is about equality in every (area) … so just the opportunity to even be able to go to school and get an education and further myself in that regard is thanks to Title IX.
“I recognize that basketball has given me so much. I’ve been able to travel the world and I’ve met so many cool people and I’ve done so many cool things … I’m super grateful for what it’s afforded me. And what it will afford people after me.”
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