Women Remain An Untapped Market

Few days of the year make me as reflective as Father's Day, but this year's Dad-day really resonated when I read the story in the Sunday New York Times, "Savoring the Victories with My Two Little Girls," by Robert Strauss. The column reminded me of my own moments with my daughters on the sports fields and courts -- but it also made me think what a huge opportunity is being missed in the sports business in reaching the female audience.

A lot of focus exists today in getting girls to play sports. From soccer to softball, lacrosse to gymnastics -- any participation is great in that it helps build confidence and moxie in our daughters. At the same time, however, almost every sports media website reaches a male dominated audience, while TV coverage of major sports leagues definitely tilts to a "guys bias."

What is missing is more focus on this impressionable young female audience by the male dominated NFL, MLB and NBA to turn these little girls into big time sports fans -- and at the same time figure out how to make today's women and moms into bigger fans as well. Ultimately, there's a whole new audience for the marketers and media outlets of these sports to reach with big time financial upside to be had. Here's how to go about it.

Start with the premise that young girls find watching and following their local teams as exciting as the boys in their class. As Exhibit A I offer up my second grade daughter who is as much a Giants fan as anyone living in the Bay Area. Local teams like the Giants are doing a better job singling out the female audience, but they could be doing more.

For example, promotions geared to get more girls and women to the games on a consistent basis will not only bolster gate revenue, but might make it not so far fetched to see women-focused brands showing up in stadium signage. Perhaps the L'Oreal logo on the leftfield wall at Yankee Stadium isn't too far afield?

Beyond the team-level marketing, the best marketing vehicle any sport has in terms of engaging fans are the players. Again, girls and boys instantly connect with the players on a team. This time Exhibit B is my older daughter who since we moved back to San Francisco three years ago has been a Tim Lincecum fan. She's a fan for many of the same reasons her boy classmates are -- Lincecum's a star player.

Being able to create some exclusive venues for players to spend time coaching or just connecting with girls would go a long way towards turning these young girls in to fans for life. Maybe over time we'd see the average demographics of fan bases migrate towards the 50-50 mark. If they get to 50-50 it will certainly be incremental audience and revenue opportunities for teams, especially since women often control the majority of the purchasing power in U.S. households.

But the biggest opportunity to extend this connection between girl and women fans with pro sports exists within the ever expanding reach of digital media. In this context the opportunity fast-forwards from young girls to women. Following the trends in real-time entertainment, women fans often find the personalities and storylines that exist outside the "white lines" to be the more compelling aspects of following a MLB, NFL or NBA team.

Imagine if teams could invest in creating and/or aggregating content about the players - particularly their personal lives -- basically delivering the People magazine side of sports. Heck, MLB already started down this path a few years ago when they started an All-Star balloting promotion with -- yes, People magazine!

If leagues, teams or even media companies figure out how to "program" to the female audience in a compelling way the stories of their stars in the same way the entertainment industry covers celebrities and pop culture, pro sports leagues and teams would benefit by attracting and engaging more women fans.

Just like Allysa Milano has created a side career designing women's clothing for pro sports teams, there's an opportunity to create content about pro sports that combines the on field analysis of the games with a more entertaining slice of what's happening beyond the game.

Oh, and before you call this out as stereotypical thinking, I can confirm two last points. These are the types of storylines that my wife would absolutely follow about pro sports -- especially around the local teams -- and I'd be willing to bet quite a few men would be reading this content as well.

5 comments about "Women Remain An Untapped Market".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Bill Sanders, June 21, 2011 at 2:02 p.m.

    Wonderfully written piece on an issue that's been long ignored. Leagues and teams make occasional attempts to court women, but I've never seen a comprehensive effort as you suggest. Check out They are providing a voice for female fans.

  2. Carie Gladding from Girlfriends Talk Sports, June 21, 2011 at 3:09 p.m.

    We couldn't agree more which is why we're doing what we're doing: talking sports the way women do!

  3. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, June 22, 2011 at 5:39 a.m.

    I see it's your career, Brian, to promote and discuss professional sports, so I don't blame you for writing this article.

    However, it's becoming more of a meme among rational men on a lot of blogs that discuss male female relationships that the LAST thing a man should want is for young women to be socialized to desire professional athletes as potential boyfriends or hookups more than himself. Just like the ancient Roman gladiators got a lot of great sex, the modern ones do quite well themselves, at the expense of other successful men whom groupies aren't socialized into targeting as sexual objects.

    I've seen first hand how 18-22 year old 10s just pop out of the woodwork in suburban communities to attend a local upscale tavern when the word has gotten out that the nearest big city's professional sports team will be there.

    These women, often the tallest and best looking the US has to offer, will openly admit that they are out to meet or even sleep with one of the team members.

    This is because a man's status in society can be everything to the youngest and best looking females (and it doesn't hurt the athletes that they are paid to work out while most of us have to work at desks). When they see grown men treating athletes like gods, they sexually desire those gods more than the men doing the adulating. It also doesn't help mortal men that we're giving athletes so much money that they can buy the hottest women we'd otherwise want to compete with them for (it's naive to say "but who would want the kind of woman who cares about a man's money").

    This isn't even theory. It's evolutionary biology, a science.

    I see many regular male sports fans as the kind of guy who feels inferior to the athletes he adulates and who doesn't intend to compete with that athlete for the exact same super hot young women in his own community whom that athlete will be poaching now and then when the local upscale tavern hosts the team. The fans seem to think they and the athletes live in different worlds when they don't. What they are actually doing, by ignoring what happens when the team comes to their local area, is cowering before the alpha males like compliant betas.

    Some of the worst rejections I ever took were from being in a tavern before a professional team showed up. The best looking women I've seen in my life directly told me that they were there to meet a team member and not a normal mortal male. No reasonable man could remain a fan of that team if this were to happen to him.

    That isn't to say that a sports executive like you would be unable to compete with the athletes. In fact, because you'd be invited to sit with them at taverns and night clubs as the groupies converge on them, you'd probably benefit greatly from the real phenomenon I described above (married or not).

    But, unless you invite your male readers to socialize with the players when they are out on the town, I'd say a lot of them would agree with me that the last thing we would want is for more young women to ascribe "status" to professional athletes as opposed to scientists, salesmen, marketing executives, entrepreneurs, etc.

    I steadfastly believe that I should have more status than some guy who throws a ball around and I'm now living outside the US where young women would agree (there isn't such a groupie scene for soccer players in other countries although they aren't unknown).

  4. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, June 22, 2011 at 5:56 a.m.

    A lot of male fans don't necessarily feel inferior to the athletes so much as they are totally naive about the fact that they are competing for the same women on the marriage market (dating market, sexual market). I've seen men try to rationalize that "groupies are dumb" and, therefore, pro athletes are not getting better women than they've gotten.

    But these women who try to meet athletes and/or sit in the stands to adore them are often super high IQ in addition to being the best looking on Earth.

    It's Marketing 101 not to inadvertently promote the competition.

  5. Gerry Myers from Advisory Link, June 23, 2011 at 2:26 p.m.

    Brian, I agree with you completely. I have even worked with a couple of sports teams to help them convert casual female fans to solid sports enthusiasts.

    Your ideas are great and teams should include marketing to women and girls in their marketing strategies and plans. There are so many ways for them to make more money, and engage females in a relationship other than just in buying a ticket.

    I love your idea of getting women’s products more involved. NASCAR did that by adding Tide, and found out it sales to men increased as well. Having signage at the game and in the program, passing out samples if possible, creating sports related ads for women’s magazines that appeal to their target demographic are just a few things teams can do.

    A few teams have created events aimed at women such as Heels and Wheels and Wine, Women and Baseball, but the vast majority could benefit financially from doing a few minor tweaks to their current advertising and marketing efforts. They can also provide NBA 101 evenings with instruction on the basic rules, meeting the coach and one or two players, etc. These, if done correctly, always sell out. Involve women, sell more merchandise, create an informative event and make money too. That’s a win-win-win-win.

    One of the things I recommend teams do is create a Woman’s Advisory Board made up of a broad demographic, including one or two season ticket holders, but also moms with kids in sports, church members, businesswomen, executives, community leaders, singles, etc. These women will serve as ambassadors for the team, provide useful and practical ideas on reaching more women and enhance your visibility with women in the community. To me A Women Advisory Board is the best use of marketing dollars a team or company can spend.

    Lastly, women want a relationship; they want to know the player, his family, as well as his interests and community work off the field.

    Creative imagination, a willingness to develop a comprehensive plan and fund it properly and determination to be a leader will reap great benefits for any sports team who targets the most lucrative and underserved market—women and girls.

Next story loading loading..