Every time we have posted a story of women’s success in sport, we’ve had a phenomenal response which indicated to us that there’s a lot of interest in women’s sport and what we can learn from it –amongst men as well as women.  This led Giles and me to think that Wonder Women in Sport could be the next book, but before embarking on any project I always like to research the opportunity!  It was then that I found Sue Antiss MBE and Fearless Women in Sport. 

Sue worked in sports marketing and sports PR for over 30 years and now she dedicates her time to a number of brilliant projects that champion and support women in sport. 

The Game Changers Podcast

She’s the host of an award-winning podcast The Game Changers, where she interviews trailblazing women in sport (I listen to it on Spotify and it’s also available on a range of other platforms).

Three are interviews with many famous names such as Clare Balding, Gabby Logan, Jessica Ennis Hill, Judy Murray, Steph Houghton, Katherine Grainger – all brilliant. My favourites include the special episode where the tables are turned and Sue is interviewed, Laura Woods: Climbing the career ladder whilst staying authentic, Carol Bates: Inspiring the ‘missed generation’ of women’s football,  Jess Fishlock: How female athletes are using their platform for social justice,  Maria Bobenrieth: How active girls can transform communities – to name just a few of the fascinating and inspirational stories.  There are also interviews with male allies, including Ian Wright and Ugo Monye.  I definitely recommend you listen to a few if not all of them!

The Women’s Sport Collective

Sue also runs the The Women’s Sport Collective which is an inclusive, collaborative network for women working in the sports sector with an ambition to see a gender equal sports industry.

Game On : The Unstoppable Rise of Women’s Sport

That brings me to Sue’s book, Game On: The Unstoppable Rise of Women’s Sport.  I’m currently on page 116 and I’ll write a full review when I’ve finished reading the whole book, but in the interim, I thought all of our brand and marketing connections and followers would be interested to hear the chapter on sponsorship that I have just finished, ‘Show me the money’ – and hence the title of this blog being about why brands should sponsor women’s sport.

In the past sports sponsorship has, unsurprisingly, focused on male sports – deals were mainly negotiated by senior managers in sports and corporate organisations, who were predominantly men.  Decisions were made based on potential financial outcomes – ie. networking opportunities and, of course, men’s sport was seen as the best place to socialise and entertain.  Media coverage and exposure is also a major consideration for sponsorship and men’s sports receive substantially more media coverage.  So the trend continues without anyone really thinking about it or challenging it.

But things are changing, and Sue outlines some very persuasive arguments for why brands should be investing in women’s sports sponsorship:

  • Women’s sport in the UK currently generates approx. £350m per year in revenue (over half of this from football and tennis).  By increasing fan interest, this could increase to £1 billion in the next decade (according to research from Two Circles and the Women’s Sports Trust)
  • Deloitte’s Sports Business Group predict that revenues could top $1 billion as TV rights deals lead to increased demand for women’s sports.  TV viewing figures and fan bases for women’s sports are building at a phenomenal pace. 
  • Nielsen research showed that 84% of general sports fans have an interest in women’s sport, and, of those, 51% are male.  It’s clear that this is a major opportunity to engage both women and men.
  • The ethos of women’s sport is very much aligned to how brands want to project themselves : collaboration, professionalism, passion (not tribalism), inclusivity. 
  • Sponsorship of women’s sport is incredible value and offers sound return of investment.
  • Brands have much greater access to athletes with women’s sport and can work with them at a human level, not just as an asset. 

So brands are now choosing to sponsor women’s sport not just because it is the right thing to do, but because they are seeing the power of women’s sport to engage the public and drive sales.  Here are just a few examples of those brands who are leading the way. 

  • Barclays announced the biggest ever sponsorship of women’s football, not only sponsoring the FA Women’s Super League, but also making a commitment to the growth and development of girl’s football with the ambition that all girls will be able to play football in schools by 2014.
  • Kia’s sponsorship of women’s cricket made absolute business sense, as women are highly influential in the car-buying process.  That, combined with Kia being a challenger brand was a great opportunity.
  • Investec sponsored the England Hockey team, not only giving them money, but in 2012 (remember the GB squad women bronze at the Olympics!) Investec helped raise the profile of the women’s squad and change perceptions of the game and change the image of how the women were seen. 
  • Vitality is particularly close to my heart as they sponsor netball (and I wear my Vitality Roses netball hoody I bought at the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool!).  Vitality’s approach is not just a badging exercise, it’s about how they can help a sport to achieve its bigger goals.  They have been able to change netball by funding professional contracts. 

The chapter in Sue’s book Game On gives much more detail and examples that I have not included here.  If you’re thinking about sponsorship, think about how your brand purpose would align with women’s sport, how you could get much better value by challenging the status quo, and the difference you could make to women’s ambitions.

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