As the stock markets start to falter and foreign currencies shudder with the unpredictability of Brexit and the US mid-term elections there is one stock I would have no problem backing in the current economic environment - women’s sport. The rise in popularity and engagement in women’s sport is there to see and brands are starting to stand-up and pay attention to this growing opportunity. Leading the charge in the market is Vitality with their recent high profile renewal of England Netball resulting in a three-year deal title partnership deal with the national women’s team – the Vitality Roses. England Netball have also just secured a multi-year, supplier and strategic partnership with Nike; a ground breaking deal for the sport.
STILL ROOM TO GROW
Recent analysis from Nielsen Sport identifies the great strides in the improvement of quality TV, online and press coverage but there remains a shortage in the quantity of coverage.
Large audiences are engaging in major sporting moments:
5.5m - Watched the Rio Olympic Hockey Final between Great Britain and Holland in 2016
1.94m - Watched the Women’s Rugby World Cup Final between England and New Zealand in 2017
7.4m - Watched the Wimbledon Quarter-Final between Konta and Halep in 2017
2.7m - Watched the Euro Semi-Final between England and Holland in 2017
0.5m - Watched the Cricket World Cup Final between England and India in 2017
These ‘tent-poles’ moments are fantastic opportunities for women’s sport to gain intermittent national profile but for the long-term growth and prosperity of the sport, it is important that the sport gets exposure through free-to-air broadcasting to allow regular and deeper engagement with the personalities behind the sport. Federations and rights holders need to play a careful balancing act between growing the profile of women’s sport through the relevant media platforms whilst still generating income from broadcast revenues to invest back in to the game. Again, Netball appears to be walking this tight-rope with aplomb with deals with both Sky Sports and BBC Sport who recognise the growing appeal of the sport and the importance of providing top-class women’s sport to the widest possible audience.
A POINT OF DIFFERENCE FOR RIGHTS HOLDERS
Interestingly, rights holders are starting to identify how they can more effectively leverage women’s sports and the point of difference that can be achieved to effectively reap the commercial benefits.
Below are a few examples of how some innovative rights holders are standing apart from their fellow rights holder competition.
World Surf League (WSL) is a unique proposition in terms of gender equality. The competitors are shareholders in the federation, setting the culture and collectively building each of their profiles. Critically, they have introduced equal prize money for male and female competitors; a strong statement of gender equality that can be translated to a commercial brand’s values and ethics.
One Pro Cycling team have announced their decision to step away altogether from men’s cycling competitions and instead run a women’s team; “One Pro Cycling has always been about effecting positive change in the sport of cycling that goes far beyond winning bike races. We believe that the greatest opportunity to do this now lies within the women’s side of the sport and our passion and ambition has only increased to make this change of direction a success.”
Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) have long described themselves as a ‘gender champion,’ underlining how women have flourished in the various equestrian disciplines on the international stage. This unique stance as a sport allows the FEI to engage brands with a different message that can be incorporated into a business’s DNA.
World Sailing has announced a mixed two-person offshore event for the Paris Olympics in 2024; a move that showcases men and women working together in a competitive sporting environment on the world stage. This move within sailing to differentiate from other rights holders has built upon a ruling in the recent Volvo Ocean Race, where teams were incentivised to have women on board. This move not only assisted the growth of women’s sailing but it truly added to the fabric of the story-telling around the race and provided greater appeal to commercial partners and fans alike.
It is plain to see that women’s sport can offer excellent value for money and provide a unique opportunity for the right brands and businesses. It is on an exciting growth trajectory and it will be fascinating to see women’s sport close the gap with men’s sport, both commercially and ultimately competitively. In this festive season of sports sponsorship deals, buy women’s sport now while stocks last...
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