How to capitalise on the growth of women’s sport

BY GARETH BALCH

Last year’s Women’s Cricket World Cup final at Lord’s was, without doubt, one of the best sporting events I’ve ever experienced – and I say that as someone who’s religiously followed sport ever since I can remember.

It was a lot to do with the build up; the coverage in the UK media, the chat on social media and the buzz in the Two Circles London team was, both in isolation and collectively, greater than anyone would have anticipated before the tournament.

But it was also due to what happened on the pitch and in the stands: the incredible atmosphere of a sell-out Lord’s crowd cheering every ball, captivated by Anya Shrubsole’s bowling performance of a lifetime to help secure England a fourth World Cup win.

It is, without doubt, a great time for women’s sport in the UK following huge increases in media coverage, new events introduced across football, hockey, netball and rugby union, and major international women’s tournaments, like the World Cup, regularly coming to the region. And it is set to continue going forward as attendances for women’s sport passed the half a million mark for the first time.

But the story goes much deeper than that: there’s an insatiable appetite from sports fans, particularly in the UK, to watch many types of elite teams and athletes live and in-person. Even in a world of Netflix and e-sports, we want to spend a greater proportion of our leisure time and money on live entertainment.

Experiences are a currency of today. And sport remains one of the best sources of experiences.

At the heart of our agency is helping our rights-holder partners understand who their audiences are, what they want out of their relationship, and using this insight to deliver fans the products and experiences they want. And this exact theme is a recurring one: fans want new and stimulating live sports experiences.

But elite sport doesn’t need to be distinguished by the sex of the competitors – if the sport is high-quality, and produces stories that keep people engaged and coming back week-after-week, fans will come in their thousands. Elite sport is men, it’s women, it’s juniors: fans just want to be entertained with a great day out, and be given the opportunity to follow the sport’s story away from the main event to understand and engage with a wider narrative.

If you’ve read about Harlequins (caveat: we are proud to partner with Quins) and their attempt to set a world record this weekend you’ll see this in practice. Quins don’t see themselves as a men’s team, they see themselves as a rugby club with different elite teams who all play rugby. They know their audience supports Quins and therefore all the teams under the Quins banner – and they come to see them play at The Stoop for the love of the live experience, which is adapted according to the different make-ups of the audience who follow each team.

The rights-holders who have a deep understanding of who their audience are and what they want will experience the best returns on their investment in women’s teams and athletes because they will be able to provide fans with the content and live experiences they demand, and use their media channels to market their teams and athletes to their audiences in a compelling and personalised way.

Photo courtesy of Tom Shaw/ECB

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