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84% of general sports fans are interested in women’s sport, now it's time to step up the game

24 October 2019
84% of general sports fans are interested in women’s sport, now it's time to step up the game

Statistics, provided by Nielsen, show that 66% of the population are interested in at least one women’s sport, and that 84% of general sports fans are interested in women’s sports. There is also currently a 37% growth in the annual number of women’s sport sponsorship deals being announced.

These exciting and encouraging numbers headlined a special session The Business of Women’s Sport – Stepping up the game at SporTel Monaco 2019. Jointly hosted by Eurovision Sport and our partners Nielsen Sports, the session featured an esteemed panel of Emilie Montané, Media and Production Director, French Tennis Federation; Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA Marketing Director; Marco Nazzari, Nielsen Regional Managing Director, Europe; and Mark Parkman, General Manager of The Olympic Channel. 

The session was moderated by BBC journalist Nina Goswami, one of the leads on the corporation’s pioneering 50:50 Project which aims to increase women’s representation in broadcasting.

Emilie Montané told the audience she was proud that tennis has a very strong legacy in gender equality. “The sport appeals to high female audiences both in terms of attendance and viewership” she explained “The equal prize money is of course very important, this began at Roland Garros in 1973. We are very conscious of match scheduling, ensuring that we have two women’s and two men’s matches scheduled on the main court at Roland Garros."  Noting that courts are named after women in the new stadium, she also talked to the audience about driving the focus on women players through the sponsors and partners, and about gender balance when considering on-court interviewers and referees.

With 63% of people believing brands should invest in both women’s and men’s sports and a fifth of the population being more influenced by sponsors of women’s sports than of men’s, Marco Nazzari from Nielsen stressed the opportunities that shouldn’t be ignored.

The potential audience engagement was the strong message from Mark Parkman at the Olympic Channel. “We have created 19,000 piece of content and 58% is based on women.” He explained that they do not focus one way or the other, but that the best story wins. “56% of the engagement on all of our content comes from women, and it’s 16% higher on the women’s content than the men’s, showing how engaged a female audience is with women’s sport. We are seeing a large percentage of the male audience connecting with women’s content too.”

UEFA’s Guy-Laurent Epstein said that the focus needs to be on participation and perception. “A key element is about making sure the reach and the visibility of the competition is growing significantly. This is not only about women but also men following the sport. I think we can see very similar patterns of viewership in both women’s football and men’s football, which is showing a change in perception.” He cited that the women’s game has increased from 12 – 63% positive perception and is able to attract sponsors who are willing to invest, because they see the benefit of this genuine approach.

Marco finished the session with his advice for sponsorship “The key word is quality. This means the right type of sponsor, one that can increase the message you are giving. Maintain control of your content – keep the proper message. Don’t become too commercial.”

EBU Director of Member Relations & Communications, Vanessa O’Connor, gave the closing comments and highlighted the work of the EBU on women’s sport. This special SporTel session was one of the EBU’s initiatives to lead the discussion on women’s sport and follows a special focus at the October Sports Assembly. A Women’s Sport Expert Group has also been launched.

Relevant links and documents