Why advertise sports to women?

After I chose this blog topic, I started thinking that sports teams don’t even really have to advertise themselves, furthermore, why would they spend their resources reaching out to women – the antithesis of their “man’s man” target market. I figured I would have a pretty tough task at hand in this blog, but it might open the door for a lot of original content. We’ll see. The president and CEO of ABC Sports and ESPN says 90 percent of Americans consider themselves sports fans (A Conversation with George Bodenheimer – September 8, 2011 – LBJ Library, Austin, TX), so some of those self-proclaimed sports fans have to be women. In my mind, this leaves a pretty big disparity between the sports experience that is geared towards men, and the composition of the fan base.

Sports teams get so much free exposure from newspapers, television and magazines that it is easy to fall into the mentality that winning is everything, and “If you win, they will come.” While that works to an extent, sports teams are selling the sports experience, and it leaves them with quite a task during a losing season – just ask the marketing team behind the 2010 Cleveland Indians who finished the season with a 69-93 record, and averaging 17,000 fans per game – the worst attendance for any MLB team in 2010 (ESPN). So if winning alone can bring out men and women to the game, and your team isn’t winning, is it enough to rely on just the game to bring people out? No, your sport is your product, and I can’t think of any other industry where your product changes on a week-to-week or even day-to-day basis. The outcome of the game is always variable. Furthermore, depending on your league, sport or location there could even be companies in your own city who are offering that very same variable product, for example baseball in Chicago. The Cubs and the White Sox are offering the same product, a baseball game, to the same geographic target market. How are they going to make their brand and their experience the one that their fans choose over the other? 

My blog sub-title assumes women are tuned into sports to see the players in their tight uniforms, and maybe they are, but it isn’t enough to turn women into fans for a specific team. The Golden State Warriors 1975 NBA championship team appealed to women with campaigns like, “We have five men in short shorts who can go all night.” (Sport Marketing, 3rd Edition) Coupled with a winning season, I’m sure the Oakland-based team made fans of many newcomers to the sport, although there isn’t much information on attendance statistics from that time period. During the 1980’s, Laura Heatherly, marketing executive for the Texas Rangers and the Olymipic Sports Committee says, “female audiences are now very important as they are a large percent of purchasers today. Back in the early 80s women were not viewed as major sports marketing audiences.” Even across other industries, much of their advertising is geared towards women who hold much of the purchasing power in their households. You can bet that they have a say in how families entertainment dollars are spent, and whether they are using those dollars to see their hometown team play. 

Furthermore, a movement of “social listening” has taken over Web 2.0. Companies can monitor and interact with the conversations that are taking place surrounding their brands. Sports teams have certainly picked up on the trend and have established their social presence on Facebook, Twitter and within their own sites. Zack Hofer says the data companies are gathering in the social realm should be “integrated with customer data.” By putting this more in depth information with their existing demographic information, teams can get better ability to inform, as well as create more targeted campaigns.

Let’s take this post as a jumping off point. From here, we will look at social media initiatives that teams or leagues are taking, how they are innovative and how they are currently reaching out to women or how they might be able to tweak them a little bit to be more appealing. Of course there will be a few tangents we will go down along the way, exploring women’s involvement in sports as well as women’s involvement with social media.