The high-profile commercial deals sealed by the likes of Fifa and Uefa in women’s football ahead of major tournaments such as this summer’s Fifa Women’s World Cup have been well documented, while tennis has produced commercially attractive female superstars for decades.
Despite the challenge, international federations are investing more time and resources into developing female-facing initiatives, from tailored marketing campaigns to new competition formats, often on the back of expanding corporate social responsibility strategies. According to data provider Nielsen, the number of women’s sports sponsorship deals rocketed by 47 per cent between 2013 and 2017, while the average value of the partnerships rose 38 per cent.
Several sports have experienced a surge in female participation in a relatively short period of time. World Rugby has reported a 28-per-cent increase in registered female players since 2017, while according to England Netball, since England won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, more than 130,000 women have taken up the sport or started to play more often.
More brands than ever before are recognising the potential of an association with women’s sports. However, despite some notable exceptions, financial self-sustainability for women’s sports properties remains an aspiration rather than an achievement for the majority.