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The intersection between sports development and gender focus may hit a commercial homerun

When analyzing the focus on women’s sport in society, it is hard to understand that there aren’t more corporations seeking to exploit the commercial potential tied to this profitable and relevant segment. For sports entities, women constitute a significant customer group that can add considerably to future revenue streams. It may be understandable from the point that men’s sports often take up the majority of the media focus. However, business is about ‘speed to market’ and finding competitive advantages and in that light the future potential of women’s sports in our individualistic society holds good business value.


Photo: A billboard ad for the #ThisGirlCan campaign (source: Sport England).

Different sports consumption patterns show that women either engage actively in sports, that women would like to engage actively in sports or that women would like to exercise more. In the UK, Sport England has launched strategic campaigns focusing on closing the gap between men and women participating in sport. In this pursuit, the organization strived to introduce something sweeping that could disturb the normal and often very ‘photoshop-based’ perception of women in sports. In doing so, Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan campaign, see videos below (first video has more than 7.8 million views), has reached great viral realization with a key focus on featuring authentic women during workout sessions. The campaign has been integrated with sports federations, clubs and commercial partners to ensure the initiative’s sustainability. To illustrate this, the English FA has reinforced the message by backing #ThisGirlCan billboards at Wembley Stadium. This example underscores the positive trend of setting women free from what holds them back; this has a positive association with motivating more women to participate actively in sports and the idea to alter the mode the surrounding environment thinks about working out.

At #ThisGirlCan’s YouTube account, the organization states that “This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get. They’re here to inspire us to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome.” Given the push to promote women’s intensified engagement in sports, the future commercial prospective regarding women’s sports will be boosted. I certainly hope that more and more corporations (of course if it makes sense commercially) will start to take ownership of this development from a sports sponsorship angle in order to create a positive reinforcing circle for the sports world and themselves. There is definitely room for a #NewBeginning. Sport England’s promotional push marks a great example of a campaign that gives women the chance to own an inspiring campaign that therefore is spread across this interesting segment in the business of sports.

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Photo: Nike’s focus on women (source: Nike).

Nike is another sports entity that wants to stimulate more women to work out. The brand’s #BetterForIt promotion has recently been introduced with a commercial message during the MTV Movie Awards, check the video below (more than 2.6 million views). Often Nike has concentrated on integrating star-athletes in these campaigns but this promotion intends to inspire women to test themselves; this includes women that have just started their work out experiences and therefore find themselves away from their comfort zone. As part of the promotion, women are motivated to offer their take on these workout experiences via social media (e.g. #BetterForIt hashtag). Nike has also introduced a ’90-day #BetterForIt challenge’, which mixes workouts from the Nike+ Training Club App and the Nike+ Running app to. This allows the brand to stimulate engagement with its brand and products and thus allows for a point of purchase.

These two examples of promotional efforts to push women’s participation in sports that offer authentic and CSR-related activities usually generate ‘free’ celebrity engagement given the trustworthy promotional approach that seeks to feature ordinary women in an everyday setting and not photoshopped supermodels out of touch with the reality that most people face when looking in the mirror. I believe that these promotional activities can help to enhance attention of this issue and thus help to change the perception towards female sports participation and encourage more women (especially those in the age group 15+, i.e. girls younger than that do not face the same issues to the same extent). These women often face obstacles that prevent them from working out so articulation is key. In that regard, ordinary women that share personal stories is a good way to go when aiming to obtain authenticity and to connect with even more targeted women. Women are not unaccompanied in their worries of judgment, which is reflected in Sport England’s huge success with its #ThisGirlCan campaign. This should also motivate corporate brands that target women to find a good strategic match with a promising sports entity that targets large masses of women given that the right approach can generate massive viral impact; social media is king in that sense and women standing together on a specific cause act as a powerful commercial vehicle capable of moving customers. Nike is determined to invest highly in this segment and the brand’s focus on ‘women only’ stores, e.g. Newport Beach, California or Shanghai, China, exemplify this. There is money in connecting with this segment whether that involves community activities, in-store yoga studios and featured guest speakers.

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Photo: Nike’s #BetterForIt initiative (source: Nike).

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