by Stefania Revelli
The French Open. The LA Kings. The Euro 2012 soccer championships. Olympics fever. It’s an exciting time for sports fans, but especially for female fans. Women athletes often get less attention for their merit and more for their magnetism, while female fans are perceived as superficial and less knowledgeable (see the Baseball Boyfriend app). But ladies are redefining what it means to cheer.
When Canadian TV show While the Men Watch replaced traditional sports commentary with girly chatter, it came under powerful scrutiny as alienating and sexist (WashingtonPost.com, 24 May 2012). Marginalizing women sports fans doesn’t make any sense at all: Women now account for more than a third of major sports event viewers, including the NBA Finals, World Series, Daytona 500 and Stanley Cup Finals (HuffingtonPost.com, 30 May 2012). In smarter reactions to the fandom, long-time boys club ESPN launched espnW, described as (an authoritative) “online destination for female sports fans and athletes.” Under Armour (What’s Beauty) and Nike (Make Yourself) have both released empowering campaigns that speak to female sports fans.
What this means to marketers
Step one in getting to the female fan: Acknowledge that a sports fan is a sports fan. Women’s relationship to sports and their attitude toward their own fanhood may be different from men’s, but that doesn’t make it lesser. Different sports coverage doesn’t need to mean dismissive sports coverage. The NFL’s specific initiatives around breast-cancer awareness struck a balance that acknowledged everyone’s fandom, but also connected the sport to many women’s passions and personal agendas. Score.