‘You think it’s all over? It’s only just begun.' Why Now Is The Time For Brands To Get Involved In Women's Sport
05 Aug, 2022
After the Lionesses' wonderful victory in the Euros on Sunday, there is no better time for brands to get involved with women's sport, says Women’s Sport Trust Trustee, Chris Hurst, in a special column for MAD//Insight.
What a week to be involved in women’s sport. From record-breaking crowds at Wembley to unprecedented broadcast visibility, it has been a remarkable period in the spotlight for women’s sport industry, but what does this mean for marketers?
Unprecedented media exposure
The 17.4 million peak audience on BBC One for the England-Germany game, along with the 5.9 million streams of the game on the BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and App, has attracted much media attention.
But this hasn’t just been a one-off level of interest – this has been a result of unprecedented exposure over a period of time.
Research from the Women’s Sport Trust, a charity formed in 2012 and one that I have been a Trustee of since 2017, showed earlier this year that the first quarter of 2022 was the most watched Q1 for women’s sport on record in the UK, with 15.1 million watching 3 minutes or more of women’s sports coverage, while another report showed 2021 was the most watched year of domestic women’s sport in history.
Why should brands get involved?
Alongside this rise in media exposure, there has undoubtedly been an increase in the number of brands investing in women’s sport in the past decade, in part due to the decoupling of sponsorship rights from men’s packages, including UEFA’s sponsorship programme.
Aside from traditional metrics such as media value there are some clear attractions for a brand to invest in women’s sport.
A study released last year by The Space Between found that women’s sports fans are 25 per cent more likely to purchase the brand sponsor of their favourite sport than men’s sport fans. The research also showed that brand recall among women’s sports fans is twice as likely as it is among those who follow men’s sport.
The Sports Innovation Lab also released research last month which showed ‘how members of the women’s sports community are rewarding brands like Nike, CarMax, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Paramount+ for investing in women’s sports’ with their spending. The report also identified the importance of building communities where individual members showcase behaviours that are tech savvy, purpose driven and invested in athletes.
And while there are some outstanding examples of how some brands are supporting their sponsorship investment with impactful activations, most notably Barclays, who alongside their sponsorship of the Women’s Super League have committed to giving girls in England equal access to football in schools, many brands haven’t backed up initial PR announcements with investment into activations.
To illustrate this point, ahead of the Women’s Euros, Onside released research that showed that only 46 per cent of UK adults could name a brand that sponsors women’s sport, with Nike and Adidas the leading brands associated with women’s sport sponsorship.
With so much room for growth, at all levels of women’s sport, (and not just in football), there is an incredible platform for creative marketeers to deliver impactful sponsorships and build on some excellent examples to date.
Heineken, a UEFA partner, have delivered a ‘Passion Knows No Gender – Cheers To All Fans’ campaign around promoting gender equality in football.
And Adidas London have been offering a WhatsApp number that will help women find a football pitch to play on, with many pitch bookings dominated by men.
Heineken is a great supporter of women's football
But you don’t just have to activate with a team or league – there is an amazing athlete opportunity as well.
Through the Women’s Sport Trust Unlocked programme (which itself is currently looking for brand partners), that has helped over 100 athletes promote increased visibility, demand better representation at governance level, drive more commercial value, increase the industry’s diversity and focus on women’s health issues – we have first-hand experience of what outstanding role models female athletes can be.
And they also have greater social reach and engagement than ever before. The Lionesses’ squad, according to data from social agency Ten Toes, collectively increased their Instagram following by 1.3m over the course of the tournament, while stars like goalkeeper Mary Earps have used the profile provided by TikTok’s sponsorship of the event and their #WEuro2022 landing page, to surpass 400,000 followers on the platform.
So with this incredible momentum, the size of opportunity is huge. Last year, the Women’s Sport Trust and Two Circles released a ‘Closing the Visibility Gap’ report that predicted revenue generated by women’s sport in the UK is set to grow to £1bn a year by 2030 – up from £350m a year currently – making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the sports industry. The key to unlocking this impressive growth will be the increased visibility of female athletes and teams – something brands can play a crucial role in.
And as Gabby Logan said, when she closed BBC’s coverage of the Women’s Euros, ‘The Lionesses have brought football home. Now it’s down to the rest of us to make sure it stays here. You think it’s all over? It’s only just begun’.
Why wouldn’t you want to be part of that journey?
To find out more about the work of the Women’s Sport Trust go to https://www.womenssporttrust.com/