Last night the Lionesses brought football home for the first time in 56 years, with some of the most genuine emotion sports has seen, and in front of a global audience. Their gripping victory has changed the course for women’s sports – and broadcast – forever.
The historic win represents a cultural moment to outlive the decades. At the risk of sounding like a fair-weather fan, I’m no avid sports watcher, but as a mother to a little girl I couldn’t feel more positive and hopeful about what last night’s win signals. As a comms professional I wonder how it may alter the shape of future partnerships, sponsorships, and content for the better.
It won’t be surprising to learn that brand marketing investment in women’s sports remains just a fraction of the amount paid for male sporting events. Ten years ago, sponsorship of women’s sports accounted for an estimate of only 0.4% of the spend dedicated to male fixtures. Women’s games sponsorship has only recently been sold individually – as opposed to being bundled in with men’s games. With both the attendee and viewer figures growing, Nielsen forecasted a rise of 146% in unbundled sponsorship of women’s games in 2022.
The impact is immeasurable. The charity Women in Sport found that only half as many girls dream of reaching the top levels in sport as boys, but 62% said seeing female athletes celebrated made them feel proud. All of which makes last night’s victory a catalyst for change.
As the celebratory mood continues, countless brands will be asking the question of how they can join in the conversation. To some extent, this can only be a good thing. Progress is slow to realise, the more brands focus on driving change –and using their reach – the quicker the gap can be closed. But it’s vital that we don’t lose sight of the end goal.
These are the values I believe PR professionals must carry forwards:
Respect the pioneers
This isn’t about one match. It’s the culmination of decades of hard work, blood, sweat and countless tears. And we must not overlook the individuals, brands, and associations – together with the players – that have taken women’s sport to this point. A conversation with them is a good place for any company to start.
As with so many things, authenticity is the only antidote to simply virtue signalling. For any brand, this should start with an inside job of ensuring gender balance and inclusivity before even considering offering external support.
Again, it isn’t about one match; it’s about recognising how far women’s sport has come, where it’s going, and supporting it to keep going in that direction. So, if you’re in, commit.
Let’s hope this victory will signal the end of historic biases and create more inclusive sports collaborations for us all.
By Katy Bloomfield, director of client relations at Definition.
This piece originally appeared on PR Week: https://www.prweek.com/article/1794622/womens-football-fever-brands-live-three-values