The interest in women’s sport is accelerating. High profile successes on the playing field has been coupled with a levelling of it in terms of attention, influence and opportunity. Participation continues to rise in parallel with the growth of a significant fan base, with three quarters of women (77%) identifying as having some interest in sport. All this presents a significant opportunity for brands, which remains under developed.
A changing landscape
Women’s sport is in a period of transformation.
National governing bodies, federations and governments are looking to increase investment in the development of women’s sport and participation.
The last three years has seen a plethora of high profile campaigns aimed at driving participation. Sport England committed over £10m of public money to challenge barriers to participation with its ‘This Girl Can’ campaign. While, the US Women’s National Team launched #SheBelieves, a campaign to inspire girls and young women to follow their dreams, inside and outside of sport.
With greater commitment comes greater opportunity and traditional broadcasters have begun to take notice. With the stars ever more marketable, the product becomes more attractive.
In 2014, the WTA announced a record breaking 10 year deal worth $525 million. In 2016, the National Women’s Soccer League negotiated a deal to broadcast six games on FOX Sports for a second consecutive season and in November 2016 Sky Sports announced that they will increase their coverage of women’s sport after agreeing a new deal with England Netball to show domestic and international fixtures on the recently launched Mix channel.
Non-traditional broadcasters continue to search for new audiences through sport - earlier this year, Facebook worked with US soccer player, Alex Morgan, to stream the opening game of her club, the Orlando Pride, on Facebook Live. The second half of the match achieved a reach of over 1.7 million.
What are the commercial opportunities for rights holders and sponsors?
For rights holders this lies in understanding the value of its inventory, reviewing commercial structures and in turn realising the benefits of defining women’s sport as a separate commercial entity.
Paying lip service to women’s sport by bundling the rights with the men’s equivalent areas does a disservice to the sport, the participants and the opportunity.
Rights bundling reduces accountability for brands. The lack of obligation leads to limited activation which in turn limits possibilities for themselves and supporters.
For many rights holders and broadcasters women represent the biggest pool of prospective new followers, purchasers and supporters however questions remain on how to best unlock this commercial opportunity.
Should brands just focus on how they activate men’s sport properties to better speak to the female consumer? But, what is the opportunity of professional women’s sport? And what is the role of mass participation sport in creating connections with consumers?
Dual-targeting of male and female consumers through men’s sport properties, if done effectively, can enable brands to squeeze added value out of existing properties. However, in order to realise the opportunity of female consumers, rights holders and brands need to understand their lives, what’s important to them, how they relate to sport and physical activity for themselves and their families.
In doing this it will enable brands to not only access their value as purchasing decision makers but also as influencers on the behaviour of their families.
In the context of a cluttered sport sponsorship landscape, the biggest opportunity presented by professional women’s sport is the one of clean air.
Automotive brands and finance have been more active within the women’s sport space but personal care, electronics and retail are all relatively untapped categories. For a number of categories there is still first to market advantage, an opportunity to rewrite the rules of play for sponsorship. Women’s sport provides a unique opportunity for brands to playing an authentic role in empowerment and normalisation of women in sport.
The exponential growth of wellness and fitness also presents a new opportunity for potential sponsors to take a more active role in empowering their audience to take part in what they love.
Women’s sport represents a clear opportunity for rights holders, media and sponsors. However, in order to realise this opportunity, we need rights holders to rethink the commercial model, innovation in distribution to enable the targeting of new audiences and activation strategies which better understand how women and girls relate to sport.
Published by: wearedisrupt in Sport