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Growth of the Influence of Women’s Sports

This is an excerpt from Sport Marketing 5th Edition With HKPropel Access by Windy Dees,Patrick Walsh,Chad D. McEvoy,Steve McKelvey,Bernard J. Mullin,Stephen Hardy & William A. Sutton.

While there is no doubt that inequities exist in relation to the marketing of women’s sports and athletes, we remain optimistic that the 2020s can represent a time for growth and a renewed call for additional media coverage and spending on women’s sports. We have seen some positive signs of growth in media coverage, interest, and viewership in recent years, particularly with basketball. In 2019, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament had its highest attendance in 15 years,11 and at one point during the 2019 season, WNBA television ratings were up 64 percent over the previous year with ESPN also broadcasting more WNBA games than in past years.12 This media momentum for women’s sports continued in 2020 when the NWSL signed a deal with CBS to provide the league with enhanced visibility on CBS and the CBS Sports Network.13

Data also indicate that sponsorship of women’s sports can provide a good return on investment for the brands involved. For example, according to a study by rEvolution, fans feel more connected with, and appreciative of, sponsors of women’s soccer than other prominent men’s professional sports. Specifically, the results suggest that fans understand that sponsors are vital to the success in the sport: 63 percent of those surveyed believed that women’s soccer could fail without the support of its sponsors.14 Consequently, women’s soccer fans are more likely to support the sponsors of the sport because they want to support the organizations that are investing in a sport they love. We anticipate a growth in sponsor spending on women’s sports and athletes as more findings such as this highlight the positive benefits of partnering with women’s sports properties. While there is some concern of how much focus will be on women’s sports following the coronavirus pandemic,15 we expect that more sponsorship spending will also be earmarked for women’s sports with the continued cultivation of leagues like the NWSL and up-and-coming, high-profile athletes, such as Sabrina Ionescu, Naomi Osaka, and Coco Gauff.

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