This article was written by Natalie Akle.
Every female athlete’s dream of achieving equality with their male counterparts isn’t as far out of reach as we thought. In fact, according to new research, women’s sport has the broad engagement, influence and value that appeals to mass audiences.
The Nielsen Sport’s market research report, The Rise of Women’s Sports, determined that women’s sport is growing faster than ever, where a survey across eight key markets around the world found that 84 per cent of sports fans, including 51 per cent of male fans, are interested in engaging in women’s sport.
This doesn’t only provide hard-evidence that a gender-balance in the sporting industry is
fast-approaching but it also leaves no viable excuse for sports media to treat female sport as inferior to its male divisions.
The current cultural climate is perfect for the growth of women’s leagues where the importance of diversity and equality parallel perfectly with the principles of female sport, according to the study.
“Women’s sport has intangible association value,” said Nielsen Sport’s Monique Perry and Kayla Ramiscal, in their report.
According to the research, women’s sport should attract more sponsors with increased exposure, due to its positive sentiment and inspirational image.
“Female athletes are seen as inspirational, considered role models and positive advocates of healthy body image,” said Perry and Ramiscal.
But despite the audience’s desire to see female athletes succeed, women’s sport only represents 10 per cent of live sports broadcast, according to the Nielsen Sport’s report.
“it is widely assumed that the attendance and viewing is just not there,” said Perry and Ramiscal.
So, what can be done to ensure the statistics are translated into action towards mending these misconceptions and installing women’s sport into mainstream media?
“Overcoming barriers to engagement is key,” said Perry and Ramiscal.
According to the report, viewers take a higher interest in women’s leagues when free-to-air broadcasting is made available, where 48 per cent of people say they would watch more women’s sport if it was accessible on free-to-air TV or free online.
Through increasing the exposure of women’s sport and placing a heavier focus on broadcasting, female leagues will inevitably attract broader audiences, ultimately encouraging major sponsorship deals, which produce monetary return.
The report uses the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) broadcasting model to exemplify the success of increasing media engagement amongst women’s sport. Through obtaining the free-to-air partner, Channel Seven, Australia’s interest in women’s cricket has increased to 43 per cent. Not only did this attract a major sponsor, like Rebel Sport, but it also produced revenue for the sport.
The study confirms that the solution to bridging the gender-gap in Australian sport is in arms-reach. Allowing women’s sport to become more accessible, especially on free-to-air TV, will prompt a desire for sponsors to invest in female leagues and contribute to the growing market.
“Women’s sport represents a chance to develop a new commercial proposition and engage fans in a different way,” said Perry and Ramiscal.
“The rate of change in women’s sport is one of the most exciting trends in the sports industry right now.”