Updated: Feb 23
As many predicted, women’s sport is making great strides in terms of attracting sponsors this year. Boots, VISA and Barclays are some of the high profile brands investing in female football. Meanwhile, World Rugby Sevens sponsor, HSBC, was apparently the driving force behind increasing the number of legs played as part of the women’s series. But this is just the beginning.
Here’s five reasons why female competitions will continue to have huge potential for brands.
1. Meaningful brand purpose - As I’ve stressed in other articles, you can’t fake brand purpose, you have to demonstrate that you’re delivering on your promise. Just like in the HSBC example, brands’ support helps to grow the sport, making a genuinely positive contribution to the game. As a sponsor (particularly outside of Premier League football), you’re not just buying logo placement, you’re helping to facilitate the sustainability and growth of a sport. With this comes a massive opportunity to demonstrate your brand purpose through a meaningful connection to sports fans.
2. Increased broadcast coverage - Let’s be honest, though, the brand purpose element can’t be solely altruistic. Big businesses want to see return on their investment. One thing that will help this, is an increase in coverage of women’s sports. In February, Mims Davies, the incoming Sports Minister, lead the calls for more female sport to be shown by major broadcasters. In an age where many elite male sports are behind paywalls, and price of broadcast rights has priced out terrestrial broadcasters. This offers a great opportunity for broadcasters to show more diverse sport and raise the profile of women’s sport. And while digital consumption goes up, don’t underestimate the importance of keeping sport free to watch. (More on that HERE.)
3. Serious analysis - It’s not just the broadcasters who are increasing the coverage. Telegraph now has a dedicated Women’s Sports Editor in Anna Kessel. The coverage, as you’d expect, is objective and doesn’t patronise the athletes. It’s serious journalism about serious sport. They also recently launched a campaign called ‘Girls, Inspired’ to help address the gender gap and help keep girls active. Both these initiatives are massive steps in the right direction but inevitably require money to keep them sustainable. This is another area when brands can help to fill the gap and grow the sector.
4. Championing positive female role models - Like many people in the sports industry, I’m a white male. So while, I’ll never truly know the pressures of being a woman in this industry, (or any other, for that matter) I’m aware of the power that positive female role models can have. Especially, at this point in time, where we face an inactivity crisis, particularly amongst young girls. Sport is littered with inspiring example and while the likes of Telegraph, BBC and Sky can help shine a light on female athletes, so too can brands. By backing women’s sports, they can tell inspirational stories by using the athletes and teams that they sponsor. You don’t need to be Nike to create a good sports marketing story.
5. Validation - This may seem superficial (and it is, to a degree), but having big brands associated with women’s sports in their own right does add validity. For a long time, the female variant of a sport like football was seen as a bit of added value, thrown in for free. The likes of Boots, VISA and Barclays all making a move to back female football shows the commercial potential. Just like playing in front of large crowds and having wide media coverage, securing a sponsor does help move the game away from being the poor relation. But as with any sponsorship, securing the rights is only one part of it. By engaging in an ongoing conversation with fans, brands can help create a new wave of partnerships that excite fans and deliver for brands.
Underdog Sports Marketing is an independent agency designed to help brands and rights holders create powerful partnerships. The kind that deliver actual business results for all parties.
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