Record broken! In 2021, domestic women’s sport attracted 32.9M viewers in 2021, this is +29% above the average of the previous 9 years. 

This key data from the Women’s Sport Trust’s “visibility uncovered” report is telling: the visibility of women’s sport is at its highest. And there is more to come: 2022 will be packed with exciting sport events. Women’s sport looks unstoppable.

 As a trustee of the Women’s Sport Trust since 2017, I am naturally excited and energised by this momentum. But somehow as a brand builder I am also unsatisfied.

Excited because Women’s sport is now widely available on screens and in arenas, attracting sponsors. Women's sport is more visible and viable than ever. Unsatisfied because there is still a long way ahead for Women’s sport to enter popular culture. Why does it matter to me? Why should it matter to all of us? Because Women’s sport entering popular culture would turbo-charge positive change in the world through the power of sport.

Nobody talks about Women’s music when they listen to Adele or Alicia Keys. Nobody talks about Women’s novels when they read Harry Potter. But we still talk about Women’s sport. To enter popular culture, Women’s sport needs to seek to tell stories, to move people. To go for hearts and minds. For laughs and inspiration. For points of difference. For benefits and reasons to believe. Yes, for better brand building.

Women’s sport needs to move from facts to emotions. We can now all watch Women’s sport and read results - which was very difficult not so long ago. This is great - but this is all at factual level. “1-0” says the website.

What we need now is to inject stories and emotions. Women’s sport needs to become a relationship that creates passion and loyalty. The difference? “1-0” may bring a trophy. The story behind may change someone’s life.

Women’s sport has the richest stories to tell. Its power to inspire is unique. The stories of commitment, overcoming barriers, inspiration are off the chart. The empathy with the stories of Women in sport is enormous. The dreams women’s sport creates are big and new. The myths and icons are emerging right in front of us. The material is there. Women’s sport just needs better brand building. 

There is a T-junction for women’s sport ahead. On the left, the road leads to women’s sport with improved visibility and funding but that has become a cold, packaged product - like Men’s sport has mostly become. On the right, women’s sport is equally well funded and broadcast but is warm, alive, moving and inspiring. It has become the sport that nudges society to be its best self. It is no longer called women’s sport. But Sport.

Michael Inpong is the Managing Director of Sport&Brands, a brand building consultancy in sport