When it comes to appreciating the value of the college football fan, major marketers have opened their wallets for decades. Brands like AT&T and UPS have enjoyed partnerships with the NCAA and/or universities. But now is the time for these brands to enhance their college sports partnerships by developing a valued -- and often overlooked -- target: female fans.
The basic numbers say it all. Women account for a significant portion of college football fans. More than 39 million adult women across the country are fans of college football, whether or not they live in a location that has a major team. On a local level, women make up a significant portion of game attendees. For example, nearly half (48%) of adults who attended a University of Georgia football game during the past year were women.
That means that any brand using the college football sponsorship platform could be losing as much as half the audience of a single event if it is not carefully including women as part of the message. It could also be a loss of opportunity to reach potential female customers when they are engaging in something they love.
But the reason for this loss isn't exclusively due to lack of targeting the female fan base. It's also because female-oriented strategies can fall short. In the past, many marketers have approached targeting women sports fans with the "pink it and shrink it" strategy: in other words, just take a jersey, color it pink, shrink it down to fit a woman, and sell it. Or, on a macro level, take the strategy you're using to target the general fan base and "pink it & shrink it" to suit the female fan.
While no doubt there is and will remain a certain market of women who will still respond to that strategy, the amount of money marketers are spending on sponsorships and activation warrants a more sophisticated approach. That said, I encourage college sports sponsors to play to the strengths of female fans to get the most out of their investments:
And, above all, get out of the way (as we do in my household!). Make the sponsorship something that is part of the fabric of the college sports experience, not something that interrupts it.
Trust me from personal experience: you do not want to be between a female college sports fan and her team on game day!