Is 2022 finally the year that we see a switch in engagement and funding in women’s sport? We hope so! It certainly looks like we’ve reached a turning point where female athletes start to get more of the attention they deserve.
Most of us are aware of a few hugely successful power houses in women’s sports like the Williams Sisters, Anika Sorenstam and Dame Kelly Holmes, to name a few of the ‘old guard’ but it’s hard to ignore the success that female athletes have achieved recently. Success, interest and public engagement with women’s sport is gaining traction like never before, meaning these sporting sensations of years gone by are becoming more and more commonplace. Women are celebrated for their contributions to sport far more now than any time in history.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen a lot of big wins for women. Including a plethora of medals coming to the home nations in this year’s commonwealth games. And who can forget the Lionesses winning Euro ‘22? Spiking interest in women’s football with 44% of the British public saying they are now more interested in watching the women’s game, acording to market research undertaken by Ipsos.
As the new Premiership season starts, we are increasingly seeing key male figures in the footballing world talk about the success of the Lionesses, the need for additional investment in funding for grass roots women’s football and understanding that they need to use their platforms to promote and celebrate the women’s game (see Ian Wright).
The concern though, is that this is a summer party, a phase that fades out like the light nights and sunny mornings and before we know it, we return to the status quo in the Autumn. Back to talking, almost exclusively, about the men’s game; who is going to be the first Premiership manager to get the sack, how far Man Utd have fallen, etc. And with the upcoming World Cup, one that can arguably be described as the most corrupt to date, interest could (but hopefully won’t) fizzle out a little.
But there’s something refreshing about the honesty and openness of the women’s game amidst the world of mega money, dodgy deals and mega rich players making strategic moves in order to orchestrate the most lucrative deals they can. Is the comparative purity of the women’s game just what we need?
Passionate players enthused about the game they love, having to fight for the public’s attention, for the opportunity to be part of something special, to inspire the youth of today and to leave their very own mark on the world of sport. There’s certainly something to be said about a lack of passion in the men’s game in comparison, and how a lot of players take for granted the position and platform they’ve got.
Imagine the men’s game with no transfer sagas, with no talk of players and agents demanding pay rises in the tens of millions, refusing to play or show up for training, or leaving games early because they are not getting their way. The women’s game offers us an honesty, willingness and passion that is all but dead and buried in the upper echelons of the men’s game.
We can hope that these recent successes mean the women’s game receives the funding and support it needs in order to continue building on a platform that brings such a bright outlook to the game that we all love. But the fact of the matter is that the public need to continue to watch or stream the games, attend live matches and show the same level of interest in the sport we’ve seen over the past couple of months!
Marketing Agency, The Space Between, found that fans of women’s sports were 25% more likely to buy endorsed or sponsored products than followers of men’s sports. So, from a marketing perspective, now appears to be the perfect time to rethink strategy and shift focus to get more bang for your buck and engage with an audience you’ll likely miss out on by focusing solely on men’s sports.
Companies like Visa are already leading the way. In 2019 they announced that they would be matching their marketing investment in FIFA’s Women World Cup and UEFA competitions and spending the same as they spent at the FIFA Men’s World Cup in Russia 2018. Pretty cool, but countless more need to follow their example.
With engagement in the women’s game at an all-time high and cost of ad space still a fraction of that of the men’s game, is this time to tap into a new vibrant and more engaged audience?