Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis

Baroness Grey-Thompson says women’s sport is ‘spectacularly missing out’ on the big deals, as leading charity says time is ripe to invest in women’s sport.

A new report, from The Commission on the Future of Women’s Sport, shows that sponsorship of women’s elite sport in the UK amounted to just 0.5 per cent of the total market. This compares to 61.1 per cent for men’s sport over the same period, between January 2010 and August 2011. Mixed sports accounts for the remainder of the market.

The case for commercial investment in women’s sport’ reveals there continues to be a chronic lack of investment in women’s elite sport, with only a 0.1 per cent increase in value, between the last time the market was valued and 2010-11, despite the imminent Olympics on home soil. The exceptionally low figure contrasts with growing TV audiences and public interest.

Women’s sporting events, such as the Women’s World Cup this summer, are drawing increased audiences, often comparing favourably with men’s events, and the final of the World Cup is also the second most tweeted about event ever online.  Research carried out in 2010, also shows that there is a demand amongst sports fans, with 61 per cent wanting to see more women’s sport.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Chair of The Commission, says: “It’s a depressing state of affairs. Our research tells us that men and women are keen to see more women’s sport on our screens but many sports, potential sponsors and broadcasters, seem to be spectacularly missing out on the opportunity to secure some great deals.

“In just a few months, the eyes of the world will be on London 2012 – the only occasion in our lifetime that we’ll be a global showcase for women’s elite sport in this country. It’s disappointing that more brands and rights holders haven’t seized the opportunity to benefit themselves and women’s sport, and help create a lasting legacy.”

Despite the disappointing figures, the value of women’s deals recorded in the first half 2011 does offer a glimmer of hope, representing 1.5 per cent of the total market so far this year.

There were some brands that bucked the trend opting to invest in women’s team sports. Investec’s landmark sponsorship of England Hockey and GB Women’s Hockey; commercial support from Continental Tyres, Umbro, Vauxhall, and Yorkshire Building Society for the FA’s Women’s Super League; Invesco Perpetual and Price Waterhouse Coopers sponsorship of the Henley Ladies Regatta; and Fiat’s backing of England Netball.

Brands such as Samsung, Speedo, Hovis, BP, British Airways and BMW also seized the golden opportunity ahead of the Olympics to back some of the UK’s female sporting talents such as Zara Phillips, Keri-Anne Payne, Victoria Pendleton, Jessica Ennis and Ellie Simmonds.

The data for ‘Big Deal?’ was analysed between January 2010 to August 2011, by HAVAS Sponsorships Insights and is taken from The World Sponsorship Monitor (TWSM) and the Broadcasting Audience Research Board (BARB).

The Commission which aims to improve the investment, profile and leadership in women’s sport, is supported and run by the charity, The Women’s Sport & Fitness Foundation (WSFF). The charity, which campaigns to get more women more active, fears the lack of investment in elite women’s sport has broader health, social and economic implications.

Sue Tibballs, Chief Executive of the WSFF, says: “The time is ripe for investment in women’s sport. However, the lack of investment accounts, in large part, for the absence of a female sporting culture in the UK – women’s sport is not widely promoted and its competitors are not being publicly presented as fit and healthy sporting role models to inspire women and girls to be physically active.

“Despite some growth in participation over the past five years, 80 per cent of women and girls – half the UK population – are not playing enough sport or doing enough exercise to benefit their health. Associated illness from physical inactivity costs the UK tax payer billions each year and it’s forecast that the majority of women will be overweight in 20 years. A nation of more active women, inspired in part by our leading sportswomen, could make a massive difference in reversing this trend.”

The report cites ten top reasons why the time is ripe to invest in women’s sport including international success, low cost of entry, London 2012 and the powerful engagement opportunities offered by social media. It also urges rights-holders and sports governing bodies to ensure they invest in high quality business cases, be more creative with the products of women’s sport and develop strong relationships with sponsors and broadcasters. 

It suggests potential sponsors should invest in understanding the market and collaborate with rights-holders to create and present events in a media-friendly way, as well as encouraging media and broadcasters to reflect and capitalise on public demand.

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