Wide open sports sponsorship opportunities, cheap as chips and with no clutter, or scandal.

Always’ “#LikeAGirl” has just won the most pencils at D&AD 2015 awards. The ad, which is designed to help to address the drop off in body confidence in teenage girls, received its well-deserved accolade in the same week as this letter hit social media. The letter, which is anonymous, and on pink paper (nice touch) responds to an article by Telegraph journalist Emma Barnett on “shining a light on how baffling it is, that in 2015, women’s sport, regardless of category, routinely fails to gain coverage and sponsorship.”

 

The letter begins “no-one wants to watch women’s sport, love, it’s a joke”, and then gets worse.  Of course it is difficult fully to interpret the intention of the author of this note.  He may think he is being funny.  His note certainly is getting plenty of attention on Twitter now, which may gratify him.  Barnett’s article, the note, and #LikeAGirl, do all touch on a big issue about the commercial and media neglect of women’s sport: the topic at Leaders in Sport’s conference on May 21st.

 

Women like sport.  (Women were 40% of the TV audience for the last world cup.) Women are great sports stars to watch.  When it comes to events like the Olympics, Wimbledon, the excitement and thrill of watching female participants absolutely equals that of the men.

 

The media however is not interested in Women’s sport.  Coverage of women’s sport is around 7% and this drops to 2% for newspapers.

 

The sponsorship market for women’s sports is wide open.  UK sports sponsorship is around £2bn annually.  The total value of women’s sports deals recorded spiked at London 2012 at about £5m.  It’s dropped since then.

 

Women like sport, women are great sports stars.  Is this a “blue ocean” (uncontested market space) opportunity for a brand?  Or are traditional attitudes to women’s sport, so eloquently explained in the pink letter, too much of a deterrent?

 

Discussing this over coffee at the conference, a fellow speaker mentioned that she used to be a strong rugby player at school and university.  As soon as she started work however she had to give it up, because it just wasn’t acceptable to come in to the office with bruises and scratches from proper sport at the weekend.  You might think a man couldn’t come to the office covered in bruises from rugby either, but, be honest, it would be load more acceptable in comparison.

 

It starts at school.  MediaCom’s school children’s survey “Connected Kids” asks boys and girls who their role models are.  The latest results : boys say David Beckham; girls say… Zoella.  It carries on through life.  Women sports stars aren’t aspired to in the same way as men.  And yet, their stories are as epic, their struggles as inspiring, their triumphs as emotional.

 

There’s untapped territory here, for a media channel to get behind, for a brand to own, territory with every emotion and no clutter.  It’s not as straightforward as sponsoring football, but the possibilities for the right brand to get involved with women’s sport are huge, and for the media to begin to change school children’s pre-conceptions the possibility is magnificent.

 

 

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