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Next Step of Growth…Not Men’s Sports or Women’s Sports…Just Great Stories. Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

“We are tapping into a narrative that doesn’t involve gender.”  Colie Edison,   Chief Growth Officer at the WNBA

Amen.

There is so much anecdotal and factual evidence of the growth of sports played by women…the Caitlin Clark  phenomenon with Iowa, large scale numbers in record for soccer, volleyball and now women’s hockey, attendance and ratings for softball, larger brand investments and on and on and on…that it’s impossible to ignore and accept.

However, one of the biggest next steps involved that statement above at the Stanford Sports Business Conference this past Wednesday.

The growth of storytelling and engagement of these amazing athletes, coaches and the like, has to come with inclusion, but not the type of inclusion that really has been talked about. It has to be agnostic of gender to make those on the fence think and effortlessly engage.

In short, it has to stop being about WOMENS SPORTS and just be about sports.

That’s it. Simple. Best stories, best brand activations, best organizations, best thinkers win out. It should not be us vs them. It should be all of us.

When Colie made that statement…it was on a ‘women’s sports’ panel not an emerging or growth sports panel which could have included some places where money is also going that involves guys struggling for attention as well…it reminded me of a gender-blind moment I witnessed just last year. I was watching a PHF…Premier Hockey Federation…game at American Dream in New Jersey. The home town…now defunct…Metropolitan Riveters were playing the Connecticut Whale, and the food court overlooked the rink. There were three young African American boys watching the action and screaming with joy. However, the moment came at the end of the second period when the athletes left the ice and took off their helmets. One of the boys turned to his mom and said, ‘hey those players are girls that’s so cool.’ The family stayed for the third period. He became enthralled with the sport and the action, not the gender.

I have seen this firsthand over the years watching and working with athletes who happen to be women in tennis, golf, wrestling, boxing, hockey, baseball, basketball, softball, lacrosse, auto racing and soccer.  Once you get past the gender and listen to the story, there is no choice to make, you follow the person regardless of what he/she/they is.

 For many sadly that’s still a challenge. Sports played by women for some are still a tough sell. The audience is growing but it is still a little tougher to justify to a board or a shareholder who only wants dollars at the end of the day. It’s coming but not fully there yet. It’s still an investment in the future. There also has to be more investment in infrastructure, marketing and explanations of business to make it more and more OK. For every soundbite of attendance or ratings growth, there are still big shortfalls where games are not being watched or attended, and that takes time.

By the way that was another key line from last week…many say they are going to games, but are they spending the time and money in going to NWSL games for example? Recently signed Gotham FC star Crystal Dunn said at her initial event a week ago that she being a Long Island native is pushing her friends and family to not just say but do…buy tickets and bring friends. Once they come to see, they come back.

One more point that goes back to the WNBA line. It cannot be us vs. them, it has to be all to be successful. Some of those involved in the growth of sports played by women still talk about ‘our time’ being now. Yes…but it has to holistic in support, not just saying support women’s sports. That ignores almost the same population…and is the same tired old adage…that those who ignored women’s sports for decades put forth. These athletes, these teams, these coaches are worthy of ALL support and growth only comes with inclusion…gender blind inclusion…and value on the business side.

The support and the value for sports played by women is growing exponentially but it can’t be in a vacuum. Regardless of gender, the value proposition has to keep growing so that choices to invest and watch and attend are made because you love the game, you love the engagement and you see the return.  

The pie keeps getting bigger, lets make sure it is served to all and all accept. It’s not us vs. them. That’s the past.

admin

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