by Amanda Lubeck, Tappit Marketing Manager
This year’s Women’s World Cup has been one for the books. Before we’ve even made it to the finals, it’s broken viewership records, had an increased share of digital coverage and, due to this heightened popularity, is even being live-streamed at more mainstream events around the world (like Glastonbury).
The Women’s World Cup – and women’s sports in general – have come a long way in recent years. But many still feel the fanfare has been a bit too quiet, especially when compared to the Men’s World Cup last year. Despite the major advances being made, why are women’s sports still lagging behind in the battle for buzz?
Maybe I should preface this with some information about myself that will help frame my perspective…
I’m American, but I moved to London last year. When I arrived in the U.K., the nation was swept up in the frenzy of the royal wedding. I assumed the mania of tourists, media coverage and viewing parties would dwindle soon after the royal carriage trotted its way back into the gates of Windsor, and then I would get to experience the peace and quiet of a typical British summer.
But I – a stereotypical American “soccer” avoider – failed to take into account the real event of the summer: the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
More than a month ahead of the World Cup in Russia, a deluge of coverage began to overtake headlines, media interviews and social media. Around the city, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pub without signs advertising live match screenings. Flags and bunting hung everywhere you looked. Suddenly I knew every word to the 1996 song “Three Lions (It’s Coming Home)” without ever intentionally listening to it.
But the Women’s World Cup? It felt like a bit of an afterthought. And yet, despite the somewhat disappointing build-up, the Women’s World Cup is still growing in popularity series-on-series. So why, then, aren’t more people talking about it?
Perhaps it’s because the football industry doesn’t quite understand its fans – who they are, what they want, and what drives their behaviour – and therefore it doesn’t see the vast market potential of female enthusiasts that has been inadvertently sidelined. Men’s football has been a mainstream staple in the global sporting industry for much longer than women’s football, and as a result, it will require more effort for Clubs and the industry at-large to engage with the women’s football audience and achieve parity.
One such example is with Club communications and marketing. In Tappit’s recent study of UK sports fans, more than three-quarters of female respondents had paid to attend a football match in the last year, trailing male respondents by only 8%. When asked why they chose to attend a match, the majority of respondents listed atmosphere and seeing their team live as primary motivators. However, despite this obvious interest in the sport, 56% of female football fans did not report feeling valued by their Club as a result of the communications they receive from them. Even so, 34% of the women still had purchased something from the Club based on these communications. Clearly, there’s room for improvement – of the respondents who expressed an opinion, 72% of female football fans would prefer to receive tailored communications based on their previous behaviour.
While I’m not arguing that female football fans are necessarily fans of the women’s game, I think it’s a fair assumption that the popularity of the women’s game is being hampered by the industry’s generic approach toward its audience. This is something that can be easily improved for fans of men’s and women’s sports through the use of purposeful technology and audience insights. Clubs who have committed to gaining a better understanding of these unique audiences have already begun to see the potential.
The increased coverage of this year’s Women’s World Cup has been heartening for female athletes and fans alike, but certainly, there’s still work to be done to elevate the women’s game to its full potential.