Women’s Sports Are an Economic Force

By investing in women’s sports, companies can support hard-working, talented athletes and show children strong role models.

Tiffany Hayes of the Connecticut Sun during Game Two of the 2023 WNBA Playoffs semifinals at Barclays Center on Sept. 26, 2023 in Brooklyn. (Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

Wednesday, Feb. 7, marks the 38th anniversary of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, started by the Women’s Sports Foundation to honor the achievements and unlock the limitless potential of girls and women in sports. Female athletes are making an impact on the court and, with the right opportunities, can make a significant economic impact off the court too. 

Last year, Iowa and DePaul women’s basketball teams attracted 55,646 fans; the Nebraska and Omaha’s women’s volleyball teams drew 92,000 fans; the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) saw a 21 percent increase in viewership; and the Women’s World Cup set a record-shattering attendance of almost 2 million fans. We have seen a boom in interest in women’s sports and according to a recent Nielsen report, fans want media and brands to take charge and promote these stellar teams and athletes.

But the hesitation to invest and advocate for women’s sports still exists, said Shelley Pisarra, executive vice president of Global Insights at Wasserman. “New perspective can perpetuate a growth cycle that will result in greater economic growth for players, leagues, brands, properties and audiences alike. Persistent, incorrect assumptions of lower media representation for women’s sports have created hesitancy around investment, whereas truth will spark opportunity.” 

Female athletes are making an impact on the court and, with the right opportunities, can make a significant economic impact off the court too. 

Deloitte predicts that in 2024, revenue generated by women’s elite sports will surpass $1 billion for the first time, 300 percent higher than predicted in 2021. Companies are catching on: Google, Nike, Ally Financial, Mastercard, Coca-Cola, Morgan Stanley and Delta are making efforts to increase their investments in women’s sports. 

Now layer in the ‘girl economy’ (think Taylor, Beyoncé and Barbie) with its significant economic impact. Kristina Chiappetta, executive strategy director at Landor & Fitch, acknowledged the significant spending power of women and girls in a CNN Business article, and said: “Brands haven’t been talking to them in their language for a really long time.” That language? Authenticity and empowerment.

That is a language Taylor Swift flaunts her fluency, and she showed us what happens when sports and the girl economy overlap: an equivalent brand value of $331.5 million for the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL, and a surge of new female football fans, including young girls. 

By investing in women’s sports, media and brands have an opportunity to be part of the change narrative to support, hard-working, talented female athletes and show children an abundance of strong, smart and positive female role models.

Speaking of young girls, they offer their own economic opportunity for sports marketing. The Aspen Institute’s State of Play 2023 reports sports participation is increasing for girls and the global youth sports market is so big it is projected to grow from $37.5 billion in 2022 to $69.4 billion in 2030. Are children’s media, apparel, publishing and toy companies paying attention?

This isn’t just a financial opportunity. Investing in female athletes is also an opportunity to create change. By investing in women’s sports, media and brands have an opportunity to be part of the change narrative to support, hard-working, talented female athletes and show children an abundance of strong, smart and positive female role models.

Sports fans of all ages are on to something big. The media can no longer bury the lead. Women excel in sports. Now companies and their brands need to see the writing—and the opportunities—on the sports page.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

About

Jodi Bondi Norgaard is an entrepreneur, author, consultant, feminist advocate and an expert in creating change and breaking gender stereotypes. She is the founder of Dream Big Toy Company and the creator of the award-winning Go! Go! Sports Girls line of dolls, books and apps for girls, encouraging healthy and active play over fashion and body image. Bondi Norgaard is a keynote speaker, consultant and activist pushing media and retail to do a better job portraying girls beyond stereotypes.