• DeJuan Wright

Brands Are Neglecting Female Sports Fans...To Their Own Detriment

Updated: Feb 21

One of the key pillars of entrepreneurship consists of ambitious individuals taking huge risks by staking their claim in uncharted territories where others aren’t looking in hopes of actualizing prosperity.

Some of the wealthiest people in the world amassed their fortunes simply by seeing a market where others couldn’t.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen did it in 1975 when they followed their vision that every household in America should contain a personal computer. And created Microsoft as a result of that vision.

Ethan Brown did it in 2009 when he founded Beyond Meat. Following his belief that there was a market for people that wanted a vegan burger that tastes similar to a beef hamburger.

Today, there’s a market that the biggest brands on the planet have relinquished. A market that is so untapped–it could generate millions of dollars for small brands that appeal to it. And possibly billions of dollars for the established brands that could seize it.

That market consists of female sports fans. And here’s why brands that neglect it do so to their own detriment.

Glance of the market

According to a 2021 report published in Forbes, 48% of all followers for college sports teams on social media are female. And according to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, as of 2020, 47% of the NFL’s 187.3 million fans were female.

Let’s think about that for a second. Nearly half of the fans of college sports as well as one of the most violent sports in the world are female. However, the marketing approach that brands take towards appealing to sports fans doesn’t reflect that.

On any given Sunday during the NFL season, pay extra attention to the advertisements being shown during an NFL game. If you didn’t know any better–you’d think that only men watched NFL games because the images in those advertisements are primarily focused on appealing towards males–when in fact, just about half of the fans of the sport are actually female.

Why brands should care

According to USA Today, each 30-second commercial that aired during the Super Bowl LVI broadcast costed an estimated $7 million. And in 2020, 70 commercials were shown during the Super Bowl broadcast. This means NBC alone cleared at least $490 million in advertising revenue just for broadcasting Super Bowl LVI.

This, along with the NBA reportedly setting a record with $1.46 billion in sponsorship revenue for the 2021-2022 season shows that brands understand the power of sports sponsorship.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of advertisements shown throughout NFL and NBA games are only geared towards male viewers. Which means sponsors could be missing out on a great opportunity to generate millions of dollars by maximizing their ad spend towards content targeting female viewers–which in the case of the NFL, is nearly half of their viewership.

Think of it this way, if someone told you there was an industry that only marketed towards half of its consumers–what would you think? That it needs to be changed right? But how? Well, I’m glad you asked.

How brands could pivot

The way for brands to successfully pivot is a simple one. They should approach the way they market towards the female sports fan the same way they’d approach any other segment that had a split demographic.

For example, if Nielsen TV ratings showed that half of the viewers of a sitcom were men–the advertisements shown during its broadcast would reflect that through balanced ads directed towards both men and women.

Sports leagues like the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA–along with the television networks that broadcast their games could make this approach even easier by having shows featuring all female hosts and commentators the same way that they currently do with men. This would open the doors for brands that provide products and services primarily for women to become sponsors of sports programming specifically catered towards females.

Brands targeting females could also simply purchase ad spots during sporting events at a higher rate. As well as create more products specifically for female sports fans.

Lastly, brands could also produce ads starring female sports fans the same way they do with men. By doing this, brands could sell products that would appeal specifically to female sports fans while at the same time–acknowledging that they see them as equal to their male fan counterparts.

The first brands that take this approach to catering towards the female sports fan–will certainly reap the rewards of striking gold in a currently uncharted territory.