Women’s pro sports are rising in visibility and viewership, entering the mainstream with new funding, advertisers, and leagues. With audiences flocking to see women on the ice, the court, and the field, advertisers are taking notice and taking advantage of the golden opportunity to reach new audiences.
In the past few years, the media has seen the steady climb of women’s pro sports, from soccer to hockey, to basketball. Alongside increased sponsorship and marketing, athletes are garnering higher viewership. Women’s athletics are slated to continue their climb in 2024, with the launch of the PWHL in January.
Deloitte forecasts that women’s sports will surge in popularity, and could potentially earn $1.28 billion in 2024 – a 300% increase from 2022 and a massive win for the sports industry and women around the world.
Women’s pro sports have entered the mainstream
Though it’s been a long time, women’s pro sports are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve from the mainstream media. This increase in attention is resulting in higher earnings for both athletes and broadcasters.
Among the highest projected earning sports for 2024 are soccer and basketball, each projected to earn $555 million and $354 million respectively. And while soccer and basketball are predicted to be the highest earners, they aren’t the only sports making progress.
Women’s hockey is making huge strides, with the PWHL (Professional Women’s Hockey League) forming in 2023 after the Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) acquired the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), combining the leagues to create a single, unified professional women’s league in North America.
The unification of professional women’s hockey was a long road worth the journey. The new league sets the sport up for success, and advertisers can expect continued inroads in women’s hockey over the league’s first few years.
Women’s pro sports are marked and marketed for success
2023 also saw the creation of the Women’s Sports Club, founded by ex-Olympian Angela Ruggiero. The organization partners with major brands like Coca-Cola and Nike and sports leagues like the WNBA to help break down barriers between brands and broadcasters to boost women’s pro sports coverage and investment.
Lack of marketing and broadcast space was a major barrier for women’s sports for decades and with the removal of roadblocks, women’s sports can find their target audience.
Evidence of market support for women’s sports is easy to spot, with the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) Championship garnering primetime TV slots alongside ample commitments from advertisers like Ally Bank.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup also saw major support in 2023 with record viewership and crucial sponsorship from major brands like Adidas.
ESPN recently launched an all-female team on its SportsCenter broadcast. This show, like the NWSL Championship, was sponsored by Ally Bank as part of its plan to dedicate 90% of its sports marketing budget to women’s sports.
Ally Bank allocated 45% of its 2023 sports marketing budget to women’s sports this year, moving towards a 50/50 split with men’s sports by 2024. Advertisers are supporting women’s athletics and broadcasters are following suit, leading the way for a bright and competitive future.
Media and marketing are picking up on trends, as they always do. In this case, women’s sports are gaining popularity and in turn, gaining much-deserved media attention. This traction will continue as marketing budgets increase and television spots improve, making now the perfect time for advertisers to jump on board.
Women’s athletics brings with it a new audience, primed and ready to experience sports with excitement and intrigue. This is a fantastic opportunity for advertisers to access new audiences at the forefront of a rising industry.