Sponsoring Women’s Sports: A Golden Opportunity (Part 2)

Lydia Ko in action during the 2017 Evian Championship. Photo by Rolex/Chris Turvey

In our last article, we discussed women often being neglected in sports sponsorships. But brands are starting to realise their potential and this golden opportunity is not to be missed!

What about the commercial side?

From a purely ROI perspective, an important factor to take into account is that women control about 80% of consumer purchases. This fast-growing female economy means that women have increased financial stability and great buying power. Propagating the excuse that sports sponsorships are only market-driven in order to justify the lack of support for women’s teams will no longer cut it. Women’s sport is a market with great potential for sponsorships and the growth in the industry only serves to validate this. Brands need to continue to be more exposed to the women’s game and acknowledge the economic value women represent today. 

Many successful brands have realised the value of promoting gender equality and female role-models. Early adopters have seized this opportunity such as Nike and Adidas. Nike took the lead in 1992 by supporting the US women’s football national team and endorsing iconic players such as Brandi Chastain. They also supported the Dutch women’s Euro league team, introducing a uniform with a lioness designed to encourage more women to play football. In the US, the brand started selling the US women’s team shirts in men’s sizes. This was followed by Adidas announcing that the Adidas-sponsored players that win the Women’s World Cup this year will receive the same performance bonus payments as their male counterparts. Even e-sports are getting in line with EA Sports introducing female players into its FIFA video game series after getting pressure from female gamers. 

This commercial interest is unprecedented and growing in momentum. In the last five years the flame has begun to burn more intensely and there has certainly been a rise in the exposure and promotion of the Women’s sports in both the media and by governing bodies. This new wave of investment demonstrates that brands are finally recognising the power of women's sports in its ability to build lucrative relationships and communicate with new audiences – a trend bound to last!

Redefining the sponsorship itself

Brands that say no to sponsoring women’s sports are missing out on reaching valuable audiences. 

The days when sponsors relied on their team being on TV is over. New technologies and the rise of social media allow sports to be seen by a completely different audience. Brands that may not have a traditional synergy with sports are also seeing opportunities to increase engagement and promote values through women’s sport. 

Too many brands still think about how many minutes they are going to get on the TV and what their brand awareness is going to be. Well, that’s advertising, not sponsorship. Sports sponsorship is about more than just enhancing brand awareness, it’s about reaching new audiences. Engaging people’s emotions is what it’s all about. This opinion is shared by Colin Banks, head of sponsorship at the energy company SSE, sponsor of the Women’s FA Cup since 2015, who argues that sponsorship is more about engagement than pure brand awareness, which is what women’s sports deliver. 

The general public actually cares about engagement, so if a brand wants to change opinions, it needs to get involved. Most brands are now thinking that if they’re going to invest in something, it needs to resonate with their values, it needs to be purpose driven in an authentic way. James Anderson, business director at Publicis Sport and Entertainment, said "Brands who genuinely care about the agenda will be rewarded”. 

The Havas survey actually shows that two thirds of people believe that sponsors should be more involved with women’s sport, while 32% say they would feel good about a brand if they sponsored women’s sport. 

Some have taken it a step further already, like The Evian Championship. The first Major tournament in continental Europe, taking place in July will be, once again, crowning the leading women golfers in the world. The event is sponsored by major brands like Rolex, Evian and Renault and serves as a platform to aid the promotion and growth of women's golf. 

There are opportunities for brands to make meaningful connections with consumers. While a brand would never dream of getting in to sponsor a men's Premier League team, they may have the budget to sponsor the front of the shirt of the women's team of that same club. As well as being more cost-effective than male sports, post sponsorship analysis found that the return on the initial investment can be tenfold. 

The way forward

Engaging in women’s sports allows brands to associate themselves with events that have a strong resonance and public support, which presents an excellent opportunity for socially responsible affiliation. Sponsoring a female team now gives brands the chance to be coupled with the market-leading event early on and to help shape its future. By sponsoring new events, these partnerships could actually provide both the brands and the sportswomen as much value, and possibly more, than men’s sponsorships in the long-term. 

A number of brands got in early and marked their spot in the women’s sport sponsorship market, like Visa, who became the first ever UEFA sponsor dedicated to women's football – a forward-thinking partnership with an unprecedented seven-year deal. Being ahead is a perfect way for them to differentiate themselves. 

Olympique Lyonnais clinching their fifth UEFA Women's Champions League. Photo: Getty Images

Women’s sports offer a great value, a more accessible and hugely untapped connexion with the audience when compared to its male counterparts. The opportunity is there. The goal is open and the potential to leverage the value that women’s sports can offer as a stage for success from both a marketing and cultural perspective is huge. 

This is an exciting and ground-breaking time for women’s sport sponsorship. Women’s sport is on the rise and the brands that put their neck out now will get the better deals. 

Will you be part of it?

A The Consultancy Group article, written by Justine Gilliot

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