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Women’s sport is the undisputed winner, brands and media benefit from it

Women’s sports are officially enjoying a renaissance. Deloitte predicted that revenue from elite women’s sports will surpass $1 billion in 2024—a prediction that could soon become a reality as more sports fans clamor for content related to women’s sports. This year, the women’s NCAA basketball tournament had more viewers than the men’s tournament, with Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese rising to stardom as the two newcomers now compete in the WNBA. It’s not just women’s basketball that’s in the spotlight. This month, Disney will release a miniseries about tennis icon Serena Williams (sponsored by Morgan Stanley), and the 2024 Paris Olympics will feature a 50:50 gender balance among athletes for the first time in Olympic history.

The advances in women’s sports are nothing new. Last summer saw an incredible series of women’s sporting events that captured global attention – from Wimbledon to the Women’s World Cup and the X-Games to the second Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift. Unfortunately, the inequality in women’s sports compared to men’s sports is nothing new either. While the numbers paint a clear picture of how incredibly profitable women’s sports are when properly invested in – with brand, media and broadcast involvement – women still have to fight to justify their place at the table. For example, although the 2024 NCAA women’s tournament had higher viewership than the men’s, the women’s tournament only brought in $6.5 million in television rights compared to the $873 million the men’s tournament brought in. In other words, bias against women leads to objectively bad business decisions.

When you look at the exciting Women’s Vert competition at X Games last week and see the tremendous talent and rapid progress of the female skateboarders, it’s amazing that this event didn’t exist before last year. In fact, one of the most exciting X Games competitions – Vert Best Trick, a long-standing men’s classic – was only just added for women. this year. If you happened to watch it, then you witnessed jaw-dropping, breathtaking athletic feats, stirring raw emotion, and gripping drama, including when phenom Arisa Trew battled to become the first woman to land a 900 in competition, and when 9-year-old Mia Kretzer made history as the youngest X-Games gold medalist. It had everything that makes sport worth watching, and it’s easy to see how successful it should be from a business perspective – so how on earth did it take so long for women to be accepted into what is supposed to be the mecca of skateboarding?

This year’s X Games finally added the Women’s BMX Park to the program, with Hannah Roberts – who will represent Team USA at the Olympics later this month – taking gold. It’s a huge, hard-fought step forward for women in the sport, and yet the X Games still doesn’t offer a Women’s BMX Street competition, while the men Seven various BMX medal events. It’s hard to understand when you look at the numbers: According to Bloom BMX, the Instagram reels of the women’s BMX races at the X-Games garnered over 3 million views (more than three times more than the men’s parks overall).

Recent research from Parity and SurveyMonkey found that 73% of respondents follow women’s sports (just 8% less than men’s sports) and 64% feel it is not covered enough. The survey also found that 53% of all respondents globally believe brands do not invest enough in women’s sports compared to men’s sports. This lack of investment is a significant loss for brands that ignore women’s sports, especially considering that 88% of respondents consider professional female athletes to be influential role models and female sports fans are 2.8 times more likely to buy products endorsed by female athletes.

It is not just a lack of coverage of women’s sports – a study by Klarna and Sports Innovation Lab shows that 79% of respondents would buy more sports equipment for women If they would have more options available to them. The data further shows that 60% of respondents intended to buy women’s sporting goods but did not because there was simply none in stock and there is only one item in the women’s sporting goods section for every nine men’s sporting goods available. The demand is there and not meeting it is simply bad for business.

The numbers prove time and time again that there is interest in women’s sport, so why aren’t more brands investing and cashing in? What needs to happen for sponsors to act in their own interest? As American tennis legend Billie Jean King told The Cut, “The men’s side has more money. But why do they have more money? Because all the money is in media rights. We need more attention. This is happening for the first time in my life. I’ve waited my whole life for what’s happening now – things like billionaires investing in women’s sport.” King is also the founder of the Women’s Sports Foundation, one of the first organizations to increase funding for women’s sport. Sport is a business, and like any business, profit requires investment. Just as more needs to be invested in women-led businesses for them to succeed, more accelerators, venture capital funds and even individual investors are key to making women’s sport successful.

US companies are also starting to realise what they are missing out on when they stop working with female athletes and sports teams. AT&T and Amazon Prime Video have signed a sponsorship deal to capitalise on the viewership of the WNBA and NWSL. This would open up the opportunity for more brands to advertise with female athletes and sports teams. Sports leagues are also doing their best to ensure that their athletes and teams benefit from the popularity of women’s sports. The WNBA has been busy forging brand partnerships, including with Glossier, Skims and most recently with over-the-counter contraceptive maker Opill.

It’s clear that sports fans are hungry for more, whether it’s more coverage of their favorite teams or more women’s sports gear on the shelves. Yet female athletes, teams and leagues have had to fight tooth and nail for coverage and brand deals, even though women’s sports are just as popular as men’s sports, and in some cases even more popular. The numbers don’t lie, women’s sports create incredible business opportunities. And progress in women’s sports is being made at a breathtaking pace; hesitate and you may miss your chance at the big time.