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Yet brands remain reticent to embrace the opportunities of women’s sports.The most recent figures date back to a study of the market between 2011-2013, which found female sports account for a mere 0.4% of total sports sponsorship.
Surging viewing figures and an array of high-profile success stories means women’s sport is riding high in 2018.
So why are so many brands neglecting the sponsorship opportunities of this burgeoning sector?
To put that into perspective, global sports sponsorship was worth $106.8bn over those three years, but just $427.2m was spent on women’s sport, so there’s huge opportunity for growth.
The appetite for watching women’s sport is growing too, fuelled by broadcasters such as Channel 4 and ITV bringing international competitions to mainstream TV.
“There’s still a lot of brands right now that are thinking about how many minutes they are going to get on the telly and ‘what’s my brand awareness going to be?
’ Actually, that’s advertising, not sponsorship,” says Banks.It’s about having a different vision and not just seeing it as a little CSR project.” This opinion is shared by Colin Banks, head of sponsorship and rewards at energy company SSE, sponsor of the Women’s FA Cup since 2015.He argues that sponsorship is more about engagement than pure brand awareness, which is why women’s sport really delivers.Whether we support a men’s team or a women’s team, it is sport to us,” he explains.“For the Old Mutual Wealth Series [of international matches] we had the men and women appear together in one, standalone piece of creative to represent our England Rugby partnership.The general public actually care about this stuff, so if you want to change people’s opinions of your brand, get involved.” A number of brands have got in early and carved out a space for themselves in the women’s sport sponsorship market, from Investec with England women’s hockey, to Kia with England women’s cricket and Vitality in England netball.SSE analysed the sponsorship opportunities for nine women’s sports before opting for football.The recent performance of female sportspeople far outshines the efforts of their male counterparts, and there are more potential successes on the horizon, with the Winter Olympics kicking off in South Korea this month, where at least 50% of Team GB’s medals are expected to be won by female athletes.Contrast that to the slender hopes given to England’s men at this summer’s FIFA World Cup.That was really innovative.” O2 expanded its Wear the Rose campaign to the Red Roses in August, tapping into the power of the team’s fervent fan base known as the Rose Army.When the England team made it to the World Cup Final, O2 moved the Wear the Rose campaign from social to TV.