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Investigating the commercial landscape of women’s football and why it’s in better shape than ever

"There is a very strong brand and economic case for why a brand would sponsor women’s football. One in five women are the main breadwinners in the family. There is a fast growing female economy - women have increased financial stability and, huge buying power – and yet our research shows that women don’t believe they are being represented in brand marketing. Football in particular is a brilliant and powerful metaphor for what women can achieve.”

Read the full article here.

Synergy Spotlight

The 2017 ICC Women's World Cup, the oldest and most prestigious international women's cricket tournament, is back on home soil after 24 years and England have booked their place in the final at Lord’s on Sunday. They will be challenging for the trophy in front of a capacity crowd of more than 26,500, with the ICC having delivered on their bold commitment to achieve a sell-out.

At Synergy we recognise how important it is to not only hero the women on the pitch but also the women behind the scenes making it all happen.  So we are delighted that this month our spotlight is on Zarah Al-Kudcy, Head of Marketing for ICC Global Events.

1. Your career in 1 sentence/1 paragraph?

From communications in a sports agency (Fast Track), to communications and marketing at a governing body down under (Athletics Australia), to marketing in the world of broadcast (Sky Sports) to global event marketing (Rugby World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy and ICC Women’s World Cup).

2. What is the highlight of your career to date?

Being part of the team that delivered the most successful Rugby World Cup in history. And now being part of the team that sold-out Lord’s for the ICC Women’s World Cup Final!

4. Describe yourself in 3 words.

Motivated. Motivator. Sport.

5. What is the key to your success?

I’m obsessed with sport! We never stop learning from different sports, different markets and different people.

6. Who inspired you and why?

I can’t pick one person, partly because I’m indecisive but also because so many people have inspired me over the years. From my Mum who always told me I could do anything (even when I told her I was going to make Wenger sign me!) to the colleagues I’ve had over the years who are now great friends. And of course, some of the sportsmen and women I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

7. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

At risk of being a cliché, I have always been a sucker for a marketing campaign and when I was younger I was really struck by Nike’s ‘Make It Happen’ – it’ stuck with me ever since.

8. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Be patient and worry less! Everything happens for a reason.

Inspiring the next generation

We believe Women’s Sport Week is more than just important.  It raises awareness of a key, rapidly growing, section of our industry.  It allows us to talk and debate key issues and helps make heroes of the athletes who train week in, week out and astound us with world class performances. 
 
We talk a lot about getting more women into the industry, more in leadership roles, more making a difference to the way our industry is run but change like this needs a longer term strategy.  It’s why, as a part of our 1+51 commitment, we want to inspire the next generation of young women – raising awareness of jobs which they may not even know exist. 

As a first step, we’ll be going back to school to talk about what we do and the amazing career opportunities plus the perks that only come with a job in sport.  Watch this space for our first back to school session.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

On March 7th, as I sat in the audience of Engine's 21st Century Woman event, I couldn’t help but feel the momentum behind the profile and awareness of women’s sport. We are moving in the right direction. The world is slowly waking up to an equal playing field and diverse boardrooms equating to a stronger economy and future. We already know the social and physical benefits of sport, and new research from Women in Sport and Investec goes further to highlight the benefits this gives women in their personal and professional endeavors. In its entirety, the progress of Women’s Sport is positive. Yet there is still this underlying attitude that likes to rear its ugly head: we seem to take two steps forward, and one step back.

October 2015 | Chelsea Ladies Leading the Way.
For the second season running the Women’s Super League went down to the final game, with Chelsea Ladies clinching their first ever title. The win also landed Chelsea their second trophy of the season after their victory over Notts County in The 2015 SSE Women’s FA Cup Final. This success would have been unlikely had the women’s team’s future been left in the hands of the club’s board. It was the then Chelsea F.C. and England captain, John Terry, who came to the rescue when their budgets were cut in 2009.

November 2015| Slow Progess for NGOs
Change needs to start at the top. Having a greater number of women in decision-making roles will benefit sport at every level. The annual ‘Trophy Women’ Report, published by Women in Sport, highlighted that almost half of sporting organisations boards failed to meet the 25% gender balance guideline, while 16% were found to have no women at executive level at all.

December 2015 | Women’s Participation Rising Faster than Men’s
Good news: the gender gap is closing at a grassroots level. Sport England released its latest findings from its Active People Survey. The number of people regularly playing sport rose by 1.65 million between 2005 and 2015, with the rise driven by an increase in the number of women playing sport. 7.01 million females aged 16 years or over (31.2%) played sport once a week, with running the fastest growing sport for women.

January 2016 | Gayle’s Conduct Falls Short
Gender equality is not recognised by all. West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle rightly drew sharp criticism for his comments after asking out reporter Mel McLaughlin live on air. He was subsequently fined £4,900 for his remarks.

February 2016 | NFL Believes in Diversity
Across the pond, the NFL continued with its efforts to encourage female involvement in the sport. February 2016 saw the introduction of a “Rooney Rule” for women, requiring teams to interview female candidates for “executive positions”.

March 2016 | Indian Wells CEO Sparks Outrage
Another day, another example of a high-profile gender howler. Indian Wells CEO, Raymond Moore’s comments that the women’s tour “rides on the coat-tails” of the men’s game received widespread backlash, resulting in his resignation. This reignited the debate of women’s pay in tennis – despite the sport remunerating men and women equally across the four Grand Slams.

April 2016 | Netball Goes Full Time
England Netball announced that players would go full-time from June 2016, with 14 players initially selected to join the summer training camp. The move is part of England Netball’s mission to reach the 2019 World Cup.

May 2016 | Record SSE Women’s FA Cup Crowd
For the second season running, The SSE Women’s FA Cup Final was held in front of a record crowd. Nearly 33,000 people were in Wembley Stadium, with millions more at watching from home as Arsenal defeated current holders Chelsea to claim their 14th title.

June 2016 | Synergy: This Girl Does
Synergy’s event with Jacqui Oatley MBE, Tanya Joseph, Colin Banks, Ruth Holdaway and Carly Telford provided thought-provoking discussion. Brands left with a clear positive message on the commercial and social value to be gained from women’s sport partnerships. See here for our seven top takeaways from the day.

July 2016 | Royal Troon Enters a New Age
After Muirfield voted not to admit women members in May, Royal Troon showed the golfing world the way forward as their members “overwhelmingly” voted to allow women to join.

August 2016 | RFU Tackles Sexism
The RFU announced they are to award 48 new contracts, including 16 full-time deals, to members of the senior women’s squad ahead of their World Cup defense in 2017. The decision came as part of new £1 million investment in the women’s game, and will allow the squad to train full-time.

August 2016 | Olympic Coverage Backlash
Media coverage of female achievements during the Rio Games was consistently slammed as sexist and degrading. From Andy Murray’s put down of John Inverdale to Helen Skelton’s wardrobe debate, everyday sexism within the media was quickly shut down. The level of backlash to the media coverage showed a growing intolerance of gender inequality amongst sports fans and represents a new age of women’s sport reporting.

September 2016 | ‘Vast’ gender wage gap still exists
As we begin to feel we’d climbed the summit, our summer and post-Olympic come down was worsened by the Gender Balance in Global Sport report. Published by Women on Boards, it found significant differences in pay for men and women in basketball, golf and football.

September 2016 | City Make the Front Page
Ending on a high, Manchester City claimed their first WSL title in style, beating the current champions 2-0 and earning a rare front-page slot in The Guardian. A watershed moment for the women’s game, and a huge step forward for Women’s Sport.

Recapping on the year, it is apparent the media, sponsors, governing bodies and NGOs are all saying, doing, or acknowledging what needs to be done to continue to move forward. Disappointingly, the work of the many is all quickly undermined by the headline-grabbing actions of the few. Fortunately, opposing these outdated perceptions is a much stronger force and fans are ready to openly voice their outrage and disagreement. 10 years ago complaints would be buried in the news editors’ inboxes; today sport is an ongoing social media spectacle, and fans are the harshest, but most honest critics. Harnessing the power of them will be integral to really making a difference. Surely this, combined with new research, is enough for us to take action, instead of continuing to simply highlight the issues? I remind myself that we’re preaching to the converted: a room full of women – and men – who are at the forefront of advocating and supporting change.

We retweet, like and love posts from people that share and validate our opinion. But we are people who love sport, work in sport, and are already invested in it promoting women’s sport.

So, how do we only move forward? Women’s Sport needs to evolve from a movement into the norm. Women's Sport needs bigger brands that talk to a bigger audience. Brands have the power to reach the masses and be a part of social change.

After all, actions speak louder than words.

Five Campaigns that Made 2016 a Year to Remember for Women’s Sport

For many, 2016 has been a year to forget. But amongst the obvious chaos, we are delighted to head into Christmas with some altogether more positive news. Figures released by Sport England in the last week have shown the number of women playing sport in England has reached an all-time high of 7.21 million. A plethora of sports including football, netball and hockey have all grown, whilst the difference between the number of men and women playing sport has narrowed to just 1.55 million. Notably, Sport England found the number of participants has increased by 250,000 since they launched their This Girl Can campaign in 2014. That’s a remarkable impact by anyone’s standards.So how have women’s sports campaigns fared since the incredible success of This Girl Can? Fortunately, they’ve been pretty good. In fact, this year alone has provided us with a number of campaigns worth sharing.

So let’s raise our glasses to the best women’s sport campaigns 2016 had to offer from around the world. If these five brilliant campaigns don’t get you inspired, then we don’t know what will.

1. Rethink Role Models – Samsung

As the official sponsor of Australia’s National Netball team, Samsung challenged Australians to rethink who they hold up as role models by shining a light on some of the sport’s most inspirational figures. Launched with this moving film featuring netballer Caitlin Bassett, the Rethink Role Models campaign went on to tell individual stories of five Netball players to inspire young girls around the country to get involved in the sport.

2. The Red Roses – RFUThe RFU announced the #RedRoses initiative with this inspirational film, showing the life of a female rugby player from birth to playing at Twickenham Stadium. Describing the campaign, RFU Chief Executive Ian Richie said: "We wanted to create an identity for England Women that would inspire more people to get involved whether playing or supporting the women’s game."
3. #RuleYourself – Under Armour

In February, Under Armour released the latest chapter of their #RuleYourself marketing campaign that originally launched in the summer of 2015. Featuring members of the USA Women’s Gymnastics team, this impressive film highlights the incredible strength and dedication of female athletes in the sport. The message? Hard work pays off, or as Under Armour like to put it, “It’s What You Do in the Dark That Puts You in the Light”.

4. Da Da Ding – NikeNike’s incredibly catchy ‘Da Da Ding’ film is the latest chapter of #justdoit. The campaign celebrates women’s sport across India, encouraging female participation in the country. Importantly, this isn’t about one particular sport, it has everything from throwing punches to shooting hoops, representing women in a fiercely competitive way not seen before in the country.
5. #PerfectNever – Reebok

Having faced trolling online for her muscular body shape and athleticism, Ronda Rousey stares her critics down in this film for Reebok. Using #PerfectNever, the film challenges the idea of perfection as Ronda Rousey tears off her makeup in favour of her training gear. She doesn’t claim to be perfect, nor does she have a desire to be. Because, as Reebok put it, “Being perfect isn’t as powerful as being human”.

Women’s Sport Week 2016

In our second instalment of special guest interviews to celebrate Women’s Sport Week 2016 we spoke to Baroness Sue Campbell, Head of Women’s Football at The FA. A former England netball player and coach, Baroness Campbell assumed her position at UK Sport in 2003, a year in which she also received a CBE for her services to sport. In that role, she was responsible for the strategies that led to Team GB’s record-breaking performance at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Baroness Campbell’s appointment to Head of Women’s Football in 2015 was made at a time when the sport has been enjoying an upsurge in popularity and is a real opportunity for her to help shape the future vision and strategy for girls’ and women’s football.
This year you were appointed as Head of Women’s Football for The FA. Tell us a bit more about this role and why it appealed to you?

It is a great privilege to be working as Head of Women's Football. So much has already been achieved, but it is now the time to take the game to a new level and ensure it realises its potential. My role is to work with everyone in the game to develop a new national strategy – doubling the number of women playing the game, doubling the fan base and achieving consistent success on the International stage.

How important is the women’s game to The FA? Martin Glenn has said it is a ‘priority’ for The FA but what does that mean?

Martin is very committed to support the development of the women's game and has made it a top priority for the whole of the FA. There is enormous enthusiasm, passion and support within the football family to get this right.

What is your vision for Women’s Football in the UK? What do you think the “step up” is after the Lionesses’ success in Canada at the 2015 FIFA World Cup?

The game has huge potential to grow and develop at every level. The success of the England team in Canada has raised the profile of the game and set new expectations. The next step is to provide a wider range of opportunities for young girls and women to play, coach and officiate, create a clear talent pathway that is accessible for all girls – no matter where they live – and develop a sustainable, successful high-performance system.

How much do you think it is lack of opportunity vs. challenging perceptions that limits the number of female players coming through?

It’s both! We need to provide a range of opportunities that meets the needs, interests and motivations of all girls and women – whether they wish to play for fun, fitness and friendship or they even have an ambition to play at the highest level. But we also need to change the brand and image of the game and develop a wide-ranging communication plan to reach more girls and women.

What power does football have to change the lives of girls and women in society?

There are some massive challenges facing girls and women in society. Growing issues over their physical and emotional wellbeing, the potential negative impact of new technologies leading to bullying and isolation, a growing complex, multi-cultural society and a lack of employment and leadership opportunities. No sport on its own can resolve these challenges, but the strength of the football brand, combined with the massive potential to grow the game means that football could make an immense contribution to women's role in society.

What do you think needs to change to get girls into sport in their early formative stages of their life?

There is no question that basic physical literacy should be in every primary school and that all sports can play their part in providing support to schools, developing quality after school programmes and providing a range of community opportunities so that all girls can experience and enjoy being active. Primary years can motivate or deter young people for life, so we have to get it right!

Does it trouble you that the likes of Manchester United have no senior women’s team? Is there a plan to get more support from the Premier League?

The teams in the FA WSL are there because of the commitment and excellence of highly motivated individuals who are passionate about the women's game. We want to spread that passion and get more people working to improve opportunities for women to play and succeed in the game. One of my first meetings was with Richard Scudamore at the Premier League, because it is important that we all work collaboratively to achieve the ambitious targets we have set for the women's game.

Are there other governing bodies in the world of women’s football and sport that you are taking inspiration from?

There is always much to learn from everyone across the world of football and in other sports. But I am sure the majority of the country was inspired by the GB women's hockey team’s performance in Rio. It was the style of their success that was so impressive. The very best of women's sport. It would be wonderful if we could have a GB football team in Tokyo to inspire us all.

If you could change just one thing in women’s football, what would it be?There is much to be proud of in the women's game. The key to achieving many of our goals is to attract the investment and marketing support of a range of commercial partners committed to the women's game.

How important is continued commercial investment for women’s football in this country?

Very important at every level. We will be seeking corporate partners who can work in partnership with us to market the game to girls and women across the country and whose business mission aligns with ours.

What do you think is the biggest area of opportunity for a brand in women’s sport?

Any brand coming into the game at this point will be entering girls’ and women's sport at a time when the physical and emotional well-being of young women is a major growing concern. Investment in women's football is an investment in the future health of the game, women and society as a whole. It is the opportunity to transform a generation of young women.

This week it is Women’s Sport Week. Can you see a time when we won’t need special weeks to raise awareness of women’s sport and how far off are we from that time?

The special focus on women's sport is key to raising awareness and celebrating all that is being achieved by women at every level of sport. The media have gradually improved their coverage of women's sport, but we still have a very long way to go!

Who do you currently think are the greatest role models in women’s sport?

Women's sport has many individual role models and the members of the England women's football team are among the most inspiring. It is not just their achievements we should celebrate but the journey they have taken to get there – overcoming so many barriers and setbacks to reach their goal. At the grassroots end of sport, my role models are the volunteer coaches who turn out in all weathers to support their players and develop their talent.

Who is your biggest influence on you when you were younger and now?

The biggest influence on me as a young person was my dad, closely followed by my PE teacher. Today I am inspired by young people who, given a chance, always amaze you!

Changing Perceptions in Women’s Sport

On Monday 26th September there was a picture on the front page of the Guardian showing Manchester City Women celebrating the moment they became WSL Champions. On the front page. Now that is a step in the right direction. Less than a week later, the football club completed the double by winning the Continental Tyres Cup. There wasn't even time to put the champagne back on ice.

Female sporting role models surround us and it is brilliant. But, with all of these successes, it is important to take a step back and assess the impact this is having on women’s sport and, more pertinently, on young girls around the country. It would be difficult to argue that the aforementioned role models aren’t encouraging women to be active. But do they engage those that simply aren’t huge sports fans? Yes, Manchester City Women were on the front page of The Guardian and quite rightly the story focussed on their on-pitch successes. However, would you flick to the back pages to read the full story if you didn’t like football? Would you even notice it on the front page? Maybe not.

Inspiring young girls around the country to play sport can’t only be about the success of elite athletes. Moreover, changing perceptions of women in sport won’t be achieved solely in the back pages of the paper. It is, in fact, this prerequisite for somebody to like sport in order to play it, that might actually be putting people off. Instead, the value of sport and the impact it can have must be communicated in a much broader way which is relatable to all (sports fan or not). Not everybody should require an ambition to be the next Steph Houghton in order for them to feel empowered to kick a football. Young girls should instead want to go and play because the results are more far-reaching, they transcend sport itself. And because their everyday role models (enter mum and dad) are encouraging them to do it. Even mums and dads that don’t have a deeply ingrained passion for sport themselves.

A recent post on the Facebook account of ‘Parenting Girls – Raising Good Women’ argued that parents don't simply pay for their kids to play sports; they pay for the opportunities that sports provides to develop attributes that will serve them well throughout their lives. Respect, teamwork, winning and losing. The fundamental life skills that make up a well-rounded person. A recent ParkLives film by Synergy client Coca-Cola takes this one step further showing that sport can quite simply bring children, parents and communities together.

And the simplicity of this is what makes it the perfect area for brands to explore. It’s far too easy for us to simply tell the story of a female that has defied the odds to reach the pinnacle of her sport. Of course these stories can be incredibly powerful, but they aren’t always relatable. Instead we should be telling the stories of how football, and sport generally, has impacted the day-to-day lives of normal young girls. How it can build their confidence and enrich their social lives. How it has given them the tools to succeed academically. But most importantly, how their parents supported them through this process and encouraged them to play. Because this is a parent’s responsibility.

Which might just be the key.

Parents have a responsibility to encourage their children to be active. They also have a responsibility to change the perceptions of women’s sport with their own children – it should start at home. So let’s encourage them to do it. At the very least, we might make mums and dads think more about the power of sport. At best, we might empower parents to take their daughter to the park to play football, regardless of their ability or previous interest in the sport.

So what is the endgame? Somebody with no interest in sport is impacted by a sporting story. It’s something we tried to achieve when working with SSE on their ‘Dads and Daughters’ series. A football story that is about way more than just football. It’s about family bonding. It’s about overcoming challenges in life. It’s about togetherness, inclusion, equality and being a part of something that can change your life for the better. And it so happens that it couldn’t have happened without two things: dedicated parents and the power of football.

Therefore, the challenge is clear: we must talk to all parents about sport, not just those that are sports fans. And we must engage them with the power sport can have on the everyday lives of their children – regardless of whether or not their daughter might one day be pictured celebrating on the front page of The Guardian.

Women’s Sport Week – 2016

This week we are celebrating Women’s Sport Week #WSW16 with a take-over of our blog & social channels.We are passionate about raising awareness of, and reducing, the gender gap that exists in sport - in participation, media coverage and within our industry.

We believe that brands have a massive opportunity to engage with 7 million active women by investing in women’s sport, raising its profile and making a real difference.This week we will bring you a number of different perspectives from the world of sport - Ruth Holdaway CEO of Women in Sport, Baroness Sue Campbell Head of Women’s Football at The FA and Author of Eat, Sweat, Play Anna Kessel along with lots of our own thoughts and opinion.

Enjoy.

Why Eni Aluko’s Under Armour Deal Is Bigger Than You Think

“Aluko’s unique position as a role-model to women and girls alike takes Under Armour in to a space where they can truly connect with consumers”

Last week marked another welcome breakthrough for women’s sport. Under Armour announced a long term sponsorship deal with Eni Aluko, the first of its kind for a WSL player, making the England international the first UK based female footballer to join #TeamUA.

But while we celebrate another positive step forward for women’s sport, we must also take a minute to applaud Under Armour. In signing Eni Aluko they have taken themselves into a new space. Forget Lionel Messi. Ignore Neymar. They both have their (obvious) merits. Eni Aluko is the secret weapon.

So why is this partnership so special?

As a female athlete (who, by the way, has been instrumental in raising the profile of the women’s game here in the UK), Aluko has the power to transcend football. Her impact will be bigger than selling a pair of football boots. With over 100 England caps to her name, Aluko has arguably been the most high profile advocate of women’s football over the past five years and is hugely respected within the game. After becoming the first female footballer to appear as a pundit on Match of the Day, Aluko headed to the European Championship’s in France this summer as part of ITV’s broadcast team. Suddenly we have an athlete that is not only inspiring girls to play football, but inspiring women within the wider confines of sport. She is famous for her determination and drive to succeed both on and off of the football pitch.

And guess what? Under Armour share these values. A match made in heaven may be a slight exaggeration, but it’s pretty special. The brand are no strangers to addressing stereotypes that exist in sport. In fact they are proud of leading the way in this field. In 2014 they made headlines with their (literally) hard-hitting ‘I WILL WHAT I WANT’ campaign alongside Gisele Bündchen. The point of the campaign? To inspire. To break down barriers. To overcome.

So, this is where the next 12 months will be interesting. Under Armour must now activate this sponsorship in a way that is only possible with a female athlete in Aluko’s position. Her unique position as a role-model to women and girls alike will take Under Armour in to a space where they can truly connect with consumers. Challenges that women and girls face in sport can be addressed and the next generation of young aspiring female footballers can be inspired. Eni Aluko is the only athlete on Under Armour’s UK roster that can tell this story in a truly credible way.

Will other brands follow suit?

Although they are the first sports brand to strike a long term partnership of this kind with a WSL player, it would be naïve to view Under Armour’s investment in women’s football as a risk. While a recent SSE campaign proved that Aluko is already a massive inspiration for girls around the country, the potential value for brands working in women’s sport is great.

According to Sport England, there are over 7 million women engaging with health and fitness in the UK today. 75% of women want to get into sport and those participating is increasing at a faster rate than men. Couple this with the fact that women’s buying power combined with increasing influence now drives 70-80% of all consumer purchasing in the household (Ernst & Young) and you have a marketing formula that is going to work.

As Synergy’s recent ‘This Girl Does’ event uncovered, brands must connect to their audiences in an authentic way in order to engage. When you talk to people in the right way, they can’t help but want to get involved. Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan campaign proved this by shifting women’s perception to feel like sport is a place where they can be.

So, what next?

In Eni Aluko, Under Armour now have the opportunity to engage with women and girls in a unique way. Let’s hope they do it. We can’t wait.

The Future for Women’s Sport: Learnings from our This Girl Does Event

Women’s sport is a really good investment. We have proof. It is time that brands understand what the opportunity is. Expertly hosted by Jacqui Oatley, MBE, Sport Presenter and Journalist, Synergy’s This Girl Does panel consisted of Tanya Joseph, Director of Business Partnerships at Sport England; Colin Banks, Head of Sponsorship and Reward, SSE; Ruth Holdaway, CEO Women in Sport; and Carly Telford, England and Notts County Footballer.Watch the video in full here.

Here are our 7 top takeaways from the day:

Untapped potential

Tanya Joseph, who orchestrated the widely successful campaign #ThisGirlCan, shared that the work was built on research revealing 2 million fewer women do recreational sport than men, but 75% of women say that they would like to do a lot more sport. As Joseph suggests, when women make up over half the population and are responsible for the majority of purchasing decisions made in the home, that’s a lot of untapped potential. Joseph claims that the campaign was so successful due to an acute understanding of the underlying fear of judgement that goes hand in hand with exercise for many women. Being able to liberate women from this fear of not being comfortable in their own bodies in a tone that is not patronising or preachy, has so far inspired 2.8 million women to get active.

Increase in role models

Carly Telford acknowledged that 2012 was when women’s football really got put on the map in this country. According to Telford, what the nation saw was the same as the men with regards to the passion they felt and the honour with which they represented the Three Lions. This, combined with the media putting them on a pedestal, encouraged record audiences. Before 2012 there were no female sports role models and in the past five years the nation has been inspired by the success of the Lionesses, Olympic and Paralympic athletes and our talented rugby union team (among many others).

The Opportunity

The figures show that a vast receptive audience exists. Women’s sport makes up less than half a percent of sponsorship going into sport, so “whatever you are looking at there will be an opportunity” says Ruth Holdaway. In the next three years the women’s Cricket World Cup (2017), the Hockey World Cup (2018) and the Netball World Cup (2019) are all being hosted in this country. According to Holdaway, the plan is to offer all three of these sports to every single school girl across the country which presents a real opportunity for brands to inspire our nation’s girls and reach their parents. It is also a great example of how innovative the rights holders are being working together to strengthen the offering.

Accessibility & Storytelling

Not only are our female role models so much more accessible they have really powerful stories for brands to tell. Superstars in men’s sport are shut off to their fans; they are a step removed by the PR teams managing their channels. Telford explained that female sports stars are far more accessible and more likely to engage personally with their audience. Their stories can connect, because ultimately they are women ‘like you’. As Tanya Joseph so aptly put it, ‘Women want to see themselves reflected in marketing.’

Chicken & Egg

The barriers to investment were brought up by Oatley asking “do you need success first before investment comes, or do you invest early and be part of that success from the start”? It was fascinating to hear from Colin Banks at SSE about how they reached their decision to sponsor the Women’s FA Cup. He started off by stating that when developing their sponsorship strategy women’s sport rose to the top in terms of value for money, and meeting core brand and business marketing objectives. From a brand perspective, Banks pointed out that “commercial ventures need return”. For SSE women’s sport was a no-brainer and they have seen real, tangible return on their investment. Banks also said that when meeting with the rights holders there was true willingness to bring partners into the fold; “exposure is of course key, but the days of media coverage being the be all and end all are over, it’s about how you engage with your audience”. So far, so successful for SSE and The FA.

Authenticity

For brands to engage the key is to connect to their audiences in an authentic way; when you talk to people in the right way, they can’t help but want to get involved. #ThisGirlCan proved this by shifting women’s perception to feel like sport is a place where they can be. Open, honest conversations with all stakeholders and your audience are essential to ensure your brand connects. According to Telford, where you will find success is when you move away from this ‘puppet on a string’ approach to working with athletes. Brands also have much more to being to the table, to generate the much needed awareness to genuinely build the sport, instead of paying vast amounts of money in exchange for reluctantly handed over assets and limited access to players that is often the experience in the men’s game.

Don’t miss out

According to Joseph “in five years’ time people will be kicking themselves that they didn’t get involved earlier”. It’s becoming quite evident that SSE has set a historical precedent in this space and we at Synergy hope to see many more brands follow suit..

If you’re interested in discussing Women’s Sport further please get in touch with Synergy’s Lisa Parfitt – lisa.parfitt@synergy-sponsorship.com.