Exploring the Monetisation Potential of Women’s Sports Fans

By Arabella Stephenson and Aimee Roberts

August 24, 2023

4 min read


Exploring the Monetisation Potential of Women’s Sports Fans

By Arabella Stephenson and Aimee Roberts

August 24, 2023

4 min read


Viewing figures for the 2023 Women’s World Cup final this Sunday have once again demonstrated the upward trajectory of Women’s sport. 14.4 million were reported to have tuned into the final on BBC and ITV, while in the winning country Spain recorded its highest-ever TV audience for women’s football, with a peak of 7.4 million viewers.

 

The rising viewership in women’s sport has been undeniable across the UK in recent years. With recent research revealing that the average viewing in the UK increased year-on-year by 131% in 2022. This growth has been palpable across a host of sports, particularly in football and cricket. With the Women’s Ashes this year receiving 4.5 times the attendance of the 2019 event. While The Hundred and the FA Women’s Super League (WSL) have attracted  11 million new viewers to women’s sport.

 

There has been a growth in sponsorship across women’s sport, with FIFA itself selling out its sponsorship packages for the Women’s World Cup. Meanwhile, the WNBA has succeeded in persuading six major brands to participate in its Changemaker’s programme since 2020. With Nike even contributing to a $75 million dollar investment in the league to complement its provision of apparel for the league.

 

Additionally, increased marketing efforts such as Orange’s viral campaign promoting France’s national women’s football team, Les Bleues, by using VFX editing to superimpose male players like Mbappe and Griezmanns over women players like Sakina Karchaoui and Selma Bacha has successfully drawn attention to gender bias in the sport. Similarly, ‘Ashes, Two Ashes’ campaign in cricket recently won Sport Industry Group UK’ campaign of the year and did well to generate hype for the male and female tournaments equally.

 

Women's sports fans celebrating a goal

England fans celebrating at the 2023 Women’s World Cup semi-final, Source: DailyMail

 

However, while women’s sport has clearly emerged as a major force in the sector, there continue to be roadblocks in the industry. For example, Nike’s refusal to sell a replica shirt for the England goalie, Mary Earps, despite her achievement of the Golden Glove award in Sunday’s final seems indicative of a reactive approach to investment in the sport with institutional investment perhaps adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to long-term consumer demand.

 

The Unsustainability of a “Wait-and-See” Approach

 

Unfortunately, this ‘wait-and-see’ approach is patently unsustainable, as the commercial sustainability of women’s sport over the coming years will be reliant on continued momentum and investment. As Tammy Parlour, the Women’s Sport Trust co-founder and CEO put it:

 

While previously the focus has been on ensuring that women’s sport is visible in broadcast, which remains really important, to ensure the commercial sustainability of women’s sport we need to maintain and grow the time that fans are spending consuming women’s sport content.”

Tammy Parlour, 2023

 

Ultimately, brands are failing to unlock the true potential of new audiences which women’s sports present and are critically underserving them. There has been a notable lack of wider broadcast coverage and match analysis for some women’s sports compared to men’s sports, even though 58% of women’s sports fans wish there was more non-live women’s sport content available. This limits opportunities to build team loyalty and rewatch habits at rates comparable to men’s sports.

 

This is a huge issue since it prevents the retention of a new young, and female based audience which is wholly independent of male sports fans. Indicatively, of the 2.7 million viewers who watched women’s cricket last year, 27% were aged under 35. While 6.2 million people who watched live WSL matches in 2021 did so without tuning into the Premier League. Accordingly, this new audience presents expansive new opportunities for brands wishing to tap into a potentially lucrative new consumer base, especially since fans of women’s sports have been reported to be more likely to recall a sponsored brand.

 

Finally, this fresh new audience heralds a shift in sport consumption. As viewers now consume sport across a host of channels beyond TV, viewing sport across social media and smartphone applications. The Sports Innovation Lab has indicated, a cross channel and digital audience base emerged primarily in the early 2020s and can be defined as ‘Fluid Fans’. Most intriguing though, is that women’s sports fans have been introduced to the sector as ‘Fluid Fans’ first. For example, The Sky Sports YouTube Netball Live channel attracts 74% female audience, 32% of whom are aged between 25-34. Considering this, broadcasters have the potential to generate fandom around women athletes and monetise a lucrative and new audience.

 

Over the past decade then, women’s sports events have repeatedly demonstrated their broad market appeal and thus their financial promise. In essence, the monetisation of women’s sports holds great potential. Particularly due its fresh new audience, and the ‘Fluid’ digitally native fanbase opening up the channels to broadcast women’s sports. Nevertheless, the commercial sustainability of women’s sports is contingent upon certain crucial factors falling into place.

 

The challenge going forward lies in consistently drawing substantial TV and stadium audiences for various women’s sports. As this occurs, the inherent value for sponsors will become evident, leading to heightened marketing investment and awareness. However, achieving this goal requires sustained investments from the entire sports ecosystem—encompassing federations, leagues, teams, sponsors, and regulators—aimed at creating ample opportunities for women’s sports to showcase its commercial viability. 

 

How can Manifesto help?

 

Manifesto are experts in identifying and implementing new business models that will drive consumer lifetime value through proposition design, experience optimisation and driving value from data. We have worked with a number of leading businesses across sectors and have a proven track record of accelerating ongoing enterprise-wide change. Contact us to find out more.


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