Title IX 50th anniversary and marketing implications

After winning the individual and team titles at the NCAA Division I women’s golf championship, Stanford freshman Rose Zhang inked an NIL deal with Adidas, becoming the first student-athlete to sign with the brand. Brands who are invested in college are expanding their campaigns to include student-athletes with use of school marks and IP for even greater return on their investments.

Brands and sports organizations can no longer ignore women’s sports and their growing fan base if they want to be successful. They must create targeted and engaging content based on the demographics and DMAs they wish to reach, and college sports marketing is a tool they can leverage. Thinking beyond traditional college investments in football and men’s basketball to include women’s teams and sports such as women’s basketball, gymnastics, soccer, softball, and volleyball to reach more household decision makers is truly a smart business decision.

The growth for women’s sports sponsorship was a full 7% higher in the 2021-22 season than the baseline growth for college sports sponsorships in general, making it one of the fastest growing categories. Softball was a standout with over 36% growth over pre-COVID investments. It is important to note that these numbers also don’t include every sport, as some – such as swimming & diving, track & field, and tennis – are not broken out by gender. The challenge in estimating those not broken down means women’s sports numbers should be even higher.

And then there are the fans. Female college sports fans represent a significant and growing population within college athletics. This group is particularly important for brand marketers and schools given the tremendous influence that women have over consumer spending. Schools and brand marketers should focus their efforts online to reach female fans, as their behavior demonstrates a preference for social media, shopping online, buying and wearing school-licensed apparel, using streaming platforms, and attending live events to engage with sports that are less likely to be broadcast on television.

Nearly all top brands are making investments in women’s sports and must continue to do so. Well-known names such as Coca-Cola, State Farm and others can be seen adapting, but brands, both larger and smaller, need to keep going.

The sports world is a priority for brands due to the engagement, attachment and passion of fans. This is true for both men’s and women’s sports. The growth will continue, and the brands that take advantage will be judged as not only thought leaders but will reach their audiences and their business goals more successfully. Women’s sports must and will be a priority in 2022 and well beyond.

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