Vibrant, diverse, multi-faceted and commercially valuable; this summer has proved the cultural and commercial firepower of women’s sport. The Women’s Six Nations, Wimbledon, the Cricket World Cup, the Netball World Cup and of course the FA Women’s World Cup. So many tournaments, so many stories, so many brand opportunities.
Yet, while the broader cultural narrative has shifted, the investment gap in marketing between men and women’s sport remains. A disconnect consumers are increasingly aware of. A survey by MediaCom and talkSPORT revealed that people feel not enough is being done by advertising and brands to support women’s sport, with fans wanting to hear more about women’s sport (64%) and three quarters (73%) believing it should be broadcast more frequently (73%).
This summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup was a landmark tournament. It has been embraced by audiences around the world; 11.7 million people watched England’s semi-final game against the US, taking the equivalent of a 50.8% share of viewers. By the end of June, the BBC said their coverage of the Women’s World Cup had reached a total of 22.2 million viewers compared with 12.4 million in 2015.
In this space, as in many, brands can have a pivotal role to play when it comes to creating meaningful connections between audience and players. These connections come through the stories being told, stories that help to unpick and dismantle long entrenched stereotypes and develop empathy and understanding in the audience.
Sponsorship investment helps to raise the profile of the game and ultimately the way the players are recognised and rewarded financially. It's sponsorship deals, advertising and corporate partners that will drive revenue within the women’s game and ultimately help to move the needle towards equal pay. Raise the profile and you raise the amount of money brands will choose to invest in the teams.
In research carried out by Dark Horses, 63% of respondents said they would be more interested if they knew more about female players (rising to 73% amongst 18-34-year olds). The results demonstrated that the more stories people know about the game and the players, the more they want to know and the more they want to watch.
Stories are an essential tool in the move to shift perceptions of women’s sport and it’s these stories that brands can help to tell. This is the new age of sports marketing, and brands should be ready to get involved.