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Women’s Sport Gearing Up For Major Post-Pandemic Push

March 5, 2021

With International Women’s Day coming this Monday, I look at how women’s sport has grown in recent years and whether it’s going to bounce back.

Between 2011 and 2013, women’s sport sponsorship accounted for only 0.4% of total sports sponsorship and the media coverage of women’s sport stood at 7% of total sports coverage.

But things have changed drastically post-2014 as more and more conversation around women’s sport started taking place globally. Its popularity prior to the pandemic was at an all time high, we witnessed the Lionesses winning the 2019 She Believes Cup, Fallon Sherrock’s incredible run at the World Darts Championship and England winning the Cricket World Cup back in 2017. Visa, and others, have announced landmark multi-year partnership with UEFA and is dedicated to women’s football, following the unbundling by UEFA of sponsorship rights from the men’s game.

Vitality sponsors the England netball team, the Vitality Roses and was main sponsor of the Netball World Cup in Liverpool which sold more than 74,000 tickets and was broadcasted on Sky Sports and the BBC.

In 2019, Barclays was unveiled as Women’s Super League sponsor in groundbreaking deal with The Football Association. AIG signed on to a 5-year title sponsorship deal with the LPGA’s British Open.

“2020’s start appeared momentous for women’s sports as the 86,174 attendance at Melbourne Cricket Ground.”

A Nielsen report titled ‘The Rise of Women’s Sports – Identifying and maximising the opportunity’ said, “Almost one in five adults in the United Kingdom would call themselves women’s football fan.”

That represented a 60% increase in the past two years, while the survey also found a rise in occasions where women’s football is discussed by fans in pubs. The report further stated:

  • 45% of the population would consider attending a live women’s sporting event
  • 46% said they would watch more women’s sport if it was broadcast on free-to-air television
  • 84% of general sports fans are interested in women’s sports

It all seemed very positive, and 2020’s start appeared momentous for women’s sports as the 86,174 attendance at Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Women’s World T20 competition broke multiple records. The included the largest for a women’s cricket match, for a women or men’s T20 World Cup final and for a women’s sporting event in Australia.

However, the pandemic has slowed the momentum for the women’s sports significantly. With no live matches and consequently, no revenue, the scenario has been grim. Tyrrells ended its sponsorship of the Women’s Premier 15s league in August last year, and numerous major tournaments were postponed including the FIFA U-17 WWC and the Olympics.

There is hope though. The Women’s EHF EURO 2020 held behind the closed doors was the most engaging online in the tournament’s history, celebrating a 56 percent increase in social media engagements and 166 percent growth in followers after Infront, a Wanda Sports Group company, and the European Handball Federation (EHF) successfully delivered a full scope digital strategy.

Brownie points to Verizon for partnering with NWSL who courageously went on to play the tournament behind closed doors. NWSL final garnered a record audience of 653,000 viewers on CBS.

Also, recently N+1 Singer was named as Chelsea FC Women’s first ever shorts partner and the only exclusive partner of the women’s team who are currently Barclays FA Women’s Super League, FA Continental Cup and FA Community Shield winners.

The government too has stepped in to support women’s sports in the UK. The UK government has earmarked a multi-million-pound winter survival package for women’s sports which is set to boost the finances of netball, soccer, badminton and basketball.

“Although women’s sport has suffered and slowed down due to the pandemic, it hasn’t stopped.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced that netball will receive 4.2 million pounds ($5.89 million) which will help the Netball Superleague restart its 2021 season.

Furthermore, the IOC announced that 100% gender equality in quotas will be reached at Paris 2024. While women in sport globally have had a strong year, with Annika Sörenstam being elected to lead the International Golf Federation, Kim Ng became the first women in MLB history to be named as the general manager of the Miami Marlins and Becky Hammon became the first woman to serve as head coach in an NBA game.

Olympic gold medal winners Alex Morgan, Sue Bird, Simone Manuel, and Chloe Kim have further teamed up to launch a digital media and commerce company called Togethxr that will elevate the stories of women across culture, activism, lifestyle and sports.

Although women’s sport has suffered and slowed down due to the pandemic, it hasn’t stopped. The Indian women’s cricket team is set to play an ODI series with South Africa in India this Sunday and permission for 10% of spectators entry has been granted. With vaccination process happening globally, the women’s sport is prepared to make a very strong comeback.

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