Marketing for women’s sports is a controversial topic. While sportswomen are often presented in ways that emphasize athletic prowess, their success is defined more by getting investments and meeting benchmarks than by the’mirroring’ of men’s sports. The question is how to market women’s sports in a manner that benefits both athletes and brands.
Women’s sports have always faced disparities in the industry. Historically, their importance has been diminished by sexist conceptions of the ideal body type. That said, a recent study by a Boston-based tech research firm, the Sports Innovation Lab (SIL), revealed several new revenue streams. This study, called “The Fan Project,” analyzed ten million data points and uncovered entry points into the world of women’s sports marketing.
As it turns out, women’s sport has the capability to drive high levels of engagement for brands, with the right metrics in place. In fact, a YouGov report found that women’s sport is a growing phenomenon. With a projected global market of $826 billion by 2030, women’s sports are poised to add $2.3 billion in sponsorships and licensing by the end of the decade.
Although women’s sport is still largely overlooked by the media, there are a few key metrics that are worth noting. For instance, women’s sports can drive a greater number of attendees to sports events, including those with gender-neutral or LGBT-themed elements. It’s also possible to build awareness of women’s sports through one-off campaigns or award shows.
Another important measure is the fan’s engagement with the sports. Several studies have shown that, at the least, fans are more inclined to attend a sporting event if they can watch the game live. Fortunately, sports leagues and teams are releasing social media and TV viewership numbers.
A third way to measure a sport’s effectiveness is to see how it performs on the sponsorship and licensing fronts. These are the moneymakers. Sponsorships and licensing have increased 20% year over year across major U.S. sports and top European soccer leagues. SIL compiled a list of the most active sponsorship categories and suggested that financial firms, apparel & accessories, and media are the three most active.
Another way to measure a sport’s marketing efficacy is to determine the most effective advertising campaign. SIL cites one that was able to drive attendance, sponsorships, and licenses in a single season. This ‘dirty’ approach includes highlighting the physical and mental capabilities of the players, which is a good way to get your message across.
The ‘dirty’ model may not work in the long term, but there are a few key steps that can be taken to get the ball rolling. One example is re-imagining the valuation model for sports. Some changes have been made, but the work remains to create an equitable playing field for all.
While there are many other factors to consider when looking to market women’s sports, the above should provide a start. Changing the way we value women’s sports will go a long way toward narrowing the disparities.