the impact of equal opportunity for athletes, fans and sponsors – Nielsen - Social Media Explorer
the impact of equal opportunity for athletes, fans and sponsors – Nielsen
the impact of equal opportunity for athletes, fans and sponsors – Nielsen

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team is known for winning on the field, and now they’ve won in their fight for fair pay following a long court battle with the U.S. Soccer Federation. But the pursuit of gender equity in sports includes more than compensation—and fans are leading in the evangelism.

While gender equality in sports has much to do, research by SME Sports shows how passionate fans are about seeing it happen. A majority of Americans expect their leagues, athletes, and teams to address social issues. 61% specifically identify gender equality in America as the cause most important. This includes fair compensation of all athletes, and equal TV time for events. 

In addition to outcries from fans, leagues, sponsors and athletes are helping close the gap as well—and the efforts are paying off. An expanded TV deal in 2021 that made it easy for fans to find the Women’s Super League in the U.K. stands out as one of the most dramatic examples, as it led to a 542% increase in viewership. Fans in the U.S. also responded in a big way to the increased coverage of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament—a move that doubled the audience reach in the first round of the 2021 women’s tournament compared to 2019.

For brands to deepen engagement with the ever growing female fanbase, it’s also important to consider relevant content and activation around men’s sports. Gracenote Inclusion Analytics revealed that only 30% of Super Bowl LVI ad campaigns leveraging SME Ad Intel or featured women. Their representation on TV was 43%. Considering that women of color over age 50 are key drivers of weekly NFL ratings performance, increased representation of women in brand messaging throughout sports will help brands connect with some of the league’s most loyal fans. This is also true for esports, where SME Esports Fans Insights data has shown that the global female fan base for esports grew 19% over the past year. That’s more than the 12% increase among male fans.

What’s next for gender equity in sports? A recent SME analysis found that media coverage of women’s sports still significantly lags men’s sports coverage. It is important to make games accessible for fans. This will allow sponsors and audiences to have more chances to get to know each other. They should also expand coverage for the sports commentary and analysis. Fans around the world are telling leagues and sponsors they’re ready for more when it comes to women’s sports.

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About the Author

Adam is an owner at Nanohydr8. He really loves comedy and satire, and the written word in general.

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