Stop sidelining sponsorships for sportswomen
It is time to debunk the notion that women’s sport receives less recognition than men’s, writes Amy Fox
Football has long been considered part of the Boy’s Club - as is arguably the case with any activity involving ragged kneecaps and grass stains. And while playground politics and the media circus surrounding the nation’s favourite game tend to revolve around the boys, this also extends more broadly into the image of women’s sports in general. We can dispel the myth that women’s sports are any less engaging than men’s, but we cannot ignore the sore lack of sponsorship for female athletes.
Women in sports certainly are deserving of the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Considering that, as of late, the nations sporting heroines have been busy smashing their rivals (à la Nikita Parris becoming the Women’s Super League all-time goal top scorer at the age of 24), compared with the relative slow-burn of accomplishments within the men’s teams.
In the midst of the FIFA Women's World Cup, alongside the rest of a busy sporting calendar, it is time that marketeers took a closer look at how they can reach engagement via some of the strongest female role models in sports today.
The current score
We have all become adjusted to seeing the faces of big sporting personalities plastered across billboards, with one commonality - they are all men. (Male) athletes are known to spearhead the vast number of marketing campaigns, leaving a considerable dearth of ambassadors and sponsorships from big brands leveraging the leading ladies of UK sporting associations.
Women may be winning on the pitches and nabbing the top spots in their leagues, but still dwell in the sidelines when it comes to sponsorships.
In fact, the most recent study of the market between 2011-2013 revealed that female sports adds up to a meagre 0.4% of all sports sponsorship. But don’t let the small numbers dissuade you. In actual fact, this makes the market ripe for untapped potential.
Working the field
There may still be limited investment in women’s sport, but its fan base is growing rapidly. Equally, it is time to debunk the notion that women’s sport receives less recognition than men’s - over 4 million Brits tuned in to watch the women’s team defeated by Holland at the semi finals at Euro 2017.
Exact viewing habits of women’s sports are difficult to pinpoint, purely because the audience is ever-expanding. Nevertheless, marketeers won’t need to tailor their campaigns to a purely female audience, and can afford to be more diverse in their approach.
Sponsoring women’s sports allows predominantly male brands to grow their female shopper audience, and the sheer differences in the audiences of men and women’s matches can be registered simply by casting a glance over the crowds. High volumes of children and families nestle in to watch women play, in itself offering marketeers the opportunity to leverage their efforts by sponsoring sport with family activities, such as Centre Parks of Thorpe Park.
Additionally, sponsoring men’s sports comes with an inordinate price tag attached, with an oversaturated market to boot. Within women’s sports, brands actually face a hotbed of opportunity to secure meaningful engagement with key consumers - rather than merely swimming amidst a sea of brand logos.
Playing the long game
The soaring cost of entry to men’s sports has catalysed a continued decline in viewership within established market. Yet in its place, the surge in interest surrounding women’s sport allows a viable opportunity for brands to expand their reach. In the aftermath of the Football World Cup, and with such a strong lineup in the sporting calendar, brands actually face a stunning array of new opportunities to form lasting partnerships with influential sporting personalities.
Investors in women’s football are aligning themselves with the aspirational ethos of the sport. Women’s football is distinct from men’s based off media and public perception alone. Being that discussions around women’s sport are much more political and inspirational in tone, advertisers can very much afford to deliver longer, harder-hitting messages - not as instant as ‘Grab a Beer’ and more aspirational as with Nike’s ‘This Girl Can’.
Ultimately, sponsoring women’s football is more than just branding. It forms a strong, meaningful partnership that fuels something much, much bigger.
And in any case - how hard can it be for marketeers to find female ambassadors with more charisma and on-screen presence than some of the sportsmen we see splashed across the tabloids these days?
By Amy Fox is Product Director, Blis