In recent years, women’s sports have experienced significant growth in popularity and visibility. From increased media coverage to higher salaries and better resources, female athletes are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Following the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, ESPN revealed that both semi-finals and the final game LSU vs. Iowa were the most the watched basketball games ever on ESPN platforms. This is only one example of how women’s sports have been growing in popularity in the U.S.
As a country, we are used to witnessing female athletes dominate on the Olympic stage. Team USA’s women won 58.4% of the total 113 medals at the 2021 Tokyo Games. The performance at the Tokyo Olympics continues a trend that began at the London 2012 Games. Since London, women have captured more medals than their male counterparts. Not only are their performances incredible, but their stories also captured the attention of the nation. For example, when Simone Biles decided to opt out of competing due to mental health challenges, her story was the number one conversation on every major new outlet in the country.
According to the Associated Press, 2022 was a pivotal year for women’s sports in terms of sponsorship deals and interest. We are finding that some companies are recognizing that investing in women’s sports has a tremendous amount of upside. Sponsorship of the traditional men’s teams and leagues (e.g. NFL; MLB; NBA; & NHL) have become oversaturated and if everything is important…than nothing is important. By comparison, there hasn’t been a long history of true investment in women’s professional team sports and herein lies an incredible opportunity. Sponsors of women’s sports are finding that not only are women’s sports fans brand loyal, but they are also more likely to purchase and engage with a brand or product after being exposed at the sporting events. Sponsors that ‘get-in’ early will not only reap the benefits of being associated with women’s sports, but they will also be the trendsetters when it comes to showcasing that women’s sports can be profitable.
A major catalyst for this growth can the attributed to the rise of social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok have allowed athletes to connect directly with their fans, showcase their personalities, and promote their athletic achievements and performances. In collegiate sports world, the ability of college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) has also allowed female student-athletes to level the playing field. These collegiate athletes are now maximizing the use of social media to not only boost their profiles but generate media attention to their sports.
In recent years, major networks like ESPN and CBS have increased their coverage of women’s sports, broadcasting more games and events than ever before. We’re seeing that if women’s sports are televised, fans are going to watch. Even if many of the games are only available via streaming platforms, fans remain undeterred and will find ways to watch the games. This underscores the loyalty of the fans of women’s sports. To borrow a quote from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you built it, they will come.”
Working for a women’s professional franchise, I am witnessing the city get behind the team. The fans are showing up for every game in larger numbers, breaking attendance records, and having a great time supporting the team. I have always been a supporter of women’s sports and watching the investment is exciting.
Despite these positive trends, women’s sports still face many challenges. Gender discrimination, unequal pay, and lack of resources and opportunities continues to hold women back in many sports. Additionally, women’s sports still receive significantly less media coverage and sponsorships dollars then men’s sports, making it difficult for female athletes to build a following and earn a living.
To address these issues, it is important for fans, sponsors, and media outlets to continue supporting and investing in women’s sports. This means advocating for gender equality, pushing for equal pay and resources, and demanding more media coverage and visibility for female athletes.
This is moment could be the moment in which women’s sports exploded in growth and popularity. It’s time to take notice, support and (more importantly) invest in women’s sports. The moment is now.