Manager, Brand & Partnerships | SponsorPulse
Using SponsorPulse™ data and the SportsPro 50 Most Marketable Properties list, we took a look at the top women's sport properties in the world through a sponsorship opportunity lens.
Professional sport, as we know it, is changing.
Once thought to be an industry reserved for males, females are beginning to have more of a presence in all areas of competition. The notion that pro sports belong to men is thankfully shifting as we are starting to see the inclusion of talented and qualified females in positions that would have been deemed impossible less than a decade ago. For example, take Kim Ng, General Manager of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Miami Marlins. Not only is Ng the first woman to serve as a general manager of a team in one of America’s four major leagues, she is also the first person of East Asian descent to serve as general manager of an MLB franchise.
Across the board, women are blazing paths for future generations to follow in all areas of pro sport, including the actual field of play itself. We are witnessing firsts in all facets of the game as women are receiving the opportunities they deserve. Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs was the first woman to act as the head coach of a National Basketball Association (NBA) team when she coached against the Los Angeles Lakers late last year. Internationally acclaimed soccer referee Stephanie Frappart made history by becoming the first woman to officiate a men’s UEFA Champions League match when she took the field for Juventus FC vs. Dynamo Kiev. For the first time in National Football League (NFL) history, both opposing playoff teams had female coaches on their sidelines when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Lori Locust) defeated the Washington Football Team (Jennifer King) this past NFL Super Wild Card weekend. Lastly, although technically not professional sport, Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play and score points in an NCAA Power Five conference football game when she kicked for the Vanderbilt Commodores.
The most amazing thing about these examples is that they have taken place just over the past few months. As this trend continues, we will hopefully continue to see the inclusion of more exceptional women as those listed above. Make no mistake about it, they deserve to be there. Sponsors and brands have noticed the potential to connect with female consumers through sport; women’s leagues and events are looking for nuanced ways to benefit from these trends. To shed more light on the topic, we decided to review the top female sport properties in the world according to SportsPro's 50 Most Marketable Properties (SP50MM) list powered by SponsorPulse™ data.
1) FIFA Women’s World Cup
To nobody’s surprise, the FIFA Women’s World Cup is officially the most marketable women’s sport property in the world. According to the SP50MM, the FIFA Women’s World Cup is ranked as the 13th most marketable sport property in the world, higher than the likes of Formula 1, the NFL, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Two international soccer icons who are listed in SportsPro’s 50 Most Marketable Athlete's list are Alex Morgan (17th) and Megan Rapinoe (25th), both playing on the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. With a SponsorPulse™ Opportunity Score (our universal, insight-driven currency designed to measure sponsorship properties) of 28, the international soccer competition has seen immense growth in popularity since its official debut in 1991.
2) Women’s Tennis Association (WTA)
The Women’s Tennis Association is ranked as the 31st most marketable sport property in the world, four places higher than its male counterpart in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). The WTA received a SponsorPulse™ Opportunity Score of 20, with an average engagement of over 42% across the world’ largest consumer markets. Many of the women who are part of the WTA are some of the most notable athletes in the world and present huge endorsement opportunities for brands looking to expand their reach. In fact, Bianca Andreescu (5th), Coco Gauff (18th), Naomi Osaka (33rd), and Ashleigh Barty (48th) were all part of SportsPro Media’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes list. Only 2 male tennis players (Rafael Nadal & Roger Federer) cracked the top 50.
Oh, did I forget to mention Venus and Serena Williams? Enough said.
3) Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)
The women’s counterpart to the NBA, the WNBA has done a magnificent job utilizing sponsorships to increase awareness and revenue over the years. With major brands such as Boost Mobile, Farmers Insurance, Pepsi and Nike all showing an interest in the league, the WNBA provides a product that simply cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Although the league did not make the SP50MM list, it was officially ranked as the 57th most marketable sport property in the world with a SponsorPulse™ Opportunity Score of 14. Many WNBA teams have “brother” NBA teams in the same markets, often combining marketing efforts to work together to promote one other. Also, who could forget the 2013 draft that produced the famous “Three to See”?
4) IIHF World Women’s Championship
The premier women’s ice hockey tournament, the IIHF World Women’s Championship (WWC) is an annual international tournament that places the strongest national ice hockey teams against one another (except for in winter Olympic years). Typically dominated by teams Canada and USA, the competition has premier sponsors such as Nike, Air Canada, Chevrolet, and Pepsi. The WWC receives an international SponsorPulse™ Opportunity Score of 11, making it the 88th most marketable sport property in the world.
5) Women’s Softball World Championship
Originally held every four years and organized by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), the fastpitch softball tournament places the strongest national teams against one another in a bi-annual competition. Also achieving an international SponsorPulse™ Opportunity Score of 11, the 101st ranked sport property in the world has an average Engagement level of 29%, with 1-in-4 of those engaging on a weekly basis. Last held in 2018, the tournament has been postponed until 2023 with the Olympic Games in 2021 and the World Games in2022.
Other Notable Mentions
Some other sport properties that deserve mentioning are the W-Series, National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), FIVB Women’s Beach Volleyball, World Surf League Women’s Championship Tour, and FIG Gymnastics World Championship. Female athletes such as Lindsey Vonn, Danica Patrick, Ronda Rousey, Billie Jean King and others have also been some of the greatest endorsers for international brands.
Although only a few female sport properties have been discussed above, there are plenty of opportunities for brands to connect through women sport and competition. It’s important to remember that women also engage with men’s sport leagues and events, and are also fans of competitions where brands traditionally market to a male audience. One recent advertisement that comes to mind is Coors Light’s ‘The official beer of being done wearing a bra’ ad.
Typically, beer commercials during football games consist of a group of male friends engaging in a sporting activity, all cracking their crisp cans to share a chilled, refreshing beverage. This ad effectively demonstrates that beer is not exclusively enjoyed by men, similar to how football is also enjoyed by women. For brands looking to make that connection, don’t be scared to break the status quo. Rather, be the first to challenge them and set the new standard for everyone else to follow.