Pre-COVID 19, Women’s sport was hitting a crucial and exciting peak across all areas, from participation and media exposure to ticket sales and lucrative sponsorship deals. The pandemic hit, and women’s sport, like many others, was badly affected.
The next step is understanding how to ensure women’s sport continues to gain momentum in a post COVID world.
In the run up to 2021, we witnessed huge steps forward in terms of equal pay, and were also inspired by female athletes with great stories to tell: such as the amazing comeback stories of Serena Williams and the lesser-known Ultra Runner Jasmin Paris, who not only won the brutal Montane Spine Race by breaking the Men’s Course Record by 12 hours, but also had to express milk along the way for her 14-month-old daughter!
Record viewing figures, ticket sales, new media deals and lucrative sponsorship deals (like Barclays title partnership of the FA Women’s Super League in a deal described as the “biggest ever investment by a brand in UK women’s sport.”), have meant that women’s sport has entered a new, more positive era with a whole new generation of new fans and participants.
The most recent Nielsen Sports research into Women’s Sport, highlighted the untapped potential and commercial opportunities for rights holders, brands and media. This was in addition to their 2019 report on Women’s football. This research showed that fan interest and commercial investments in women’s football were growing steadily ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. 40% of the people in countries with a team competing were interested in women’s football, that’s 314 Million people across 24 markets. This represents a huge opportunity for brands, clubs, grassroot sports and the media to access an already captivate global audience.
Women’s sport is prime territory for brands that want to be associated with top-class players who people care about and who are getting media attention. The more opportunity young people have to see people like themselves taking part in sports and other activities, the more likely it makes them to want to take up a sport. In short, it makes it much more relatable.
Football is leading the way on a global scale in women’s sports across all areas of the game from the top down, such as organisations like The FA, paving the way in diversity with their announcement that they will appoint a female Chair for the first time in its 157-year history.
The ECB are constantly displaying the women’s game equally to the men’s across their marketing and social channels with their sponsors using the female game alongside the men’s game. They also announced that The Hundred will open with a women’s game, with the franchises already attracting some of the best female players in the world, the most recent signing being Australia’s allrounder Ellyse Perry. It will also be shown on terrestrial TV, which is a huge step forward, not just for the sport but women’s sport in general.
In the past few weeks, there have been some exciting announcements in the sector such as New Balance’s lacrosse brand Brine rebranding itself exclusively for women (participation in women’s lacrosse has grown 200% over the last decade). World Rugby has announced a new global 15s tournament to ‘supercharge’ the women’s game, backed by a £6.4 million investment. Female statues will be created by Cricket Australia as they commit to addressing the lack of statues of female cricketers.
According to Deloitte, the long-term outlook will continue to be positive once women’s sport recovers the momentum it built prior to 2019, which had seen female leagues and events benefit from growing attendances, as well as an increase in the number and value of sponsorship and media rights deals.
Enforced lockdown has given us all time to appreciate the importance of sports and activities in our lives, not just for our physical health but for our mental health as well. All the signs are that post-lockdown, women’s sport will quickly bounce back to pre–Covid levels of participation, not least due to a year’s stored up momentum that will, we hope, be shortly unleashed.