Beyoncé on Sports Marketing

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Earlier this week the Beyhive and the whole internet was abuzz after the sagacious Queen Bey came off of her thrown and delivered a brief essay on equality.  With a focus on equal pay, Beyoncé encouraged both women and men to demand that women be treated as equals in the workplace.  I’m the first one to tell you that I’m no Beyoncé Stan and that she’s probably not one of the first celebrities I would look to for advice, but I admit that she was spot on with her assessment.  Women have never been treated equally in the workplace.  And that lack of equality in the workplace has translated to disparaging/disproportionate treatment in the marketplace.  Women have been force-fed products that align with archaic ideas of what it means to be a woman and producers have avoided making efforts to market “boy toys” to female consumers.  Women get sold vacuum cleaners and cookware, not Chevy’s and lawn mowers.  Unfortunately, the sports world is no different.  For years, major league sports have done little to market their sports and their products to women.  The NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR and NHL have all traditionally been boys clubs where women were only allowed as cheerleaders, wives or girlfriends.  Recent statistics show; however, that women have eased their way from being supporting cast members to legitimate fans.  The growth of female sports fans should definitely be cause for consideration for the marketing departments in major league sports. 

Here are a few quick facts that should encourage any sports market strategist to take heed to female consumers.  As Beyoncé correctly pointed out, women make up more than 50% of the population.  And according to various economic sources, women control about 80% of spending in the U.S.  At least 40% of the fan base in each league (NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, NHL) are females.  These numbers mean that if major leagues are only focusing their attentions on the 50% of the population that is responsible for only 20% of spending decisions, they’re missing out on a large amount of revenue.  Women spend money on things for themselves, but they also spend on things for their families and friends.  They make decisions about date nights, family outings and girls’ trips, and they encourage other women to spend their money in the same ways that they spend money.  With all of these opportunities for women to make decisions about spending, major leagues are doing themselves a great disservice by not catering to female their consumers. 

While most of the major league organizations have not been aggressive in targeting their female fans, one has and its efforts have paid off handsomely.  The NFL, with its annual breast cancer awareness campaign and revamped clothing lines aimed at women, has seen a remarkable increase in revenue and female fan participation and satisfaction.  The more attractive the products are to women, the more women have been inclined to purchase products and attend games.  While the MLB made efforts by joining with Victoria Secret to create a line of women’s tops and the NBA made those horrible high heels, there is still more that can be done, much more.  For example, leagues (the NFL included) can target other women’s health issues, like heart disease, osteoporosis and autoimmune diseases (like lupus and diabetes); conduct more family-oriented activities; improve access to restrooms throughout stadiums and tailgating areas; and continue to increase variety in apparel.  The benefits (to the leagues and the fans) of considering the female fan’s interests far outweigh any initial costs and changes can be made without disrupting the male fan experience, what’s not to love.  

If someone would have told me that I was going to wake up this morning and use Beyoncé as a point of reference for a sports article, I would have laughed.  Beyoncé’s words; however, rang true and are relevant even in sports.  Female athletes, coaches and executives get paid less and are far less represented in the media than their male counterparts.  With so much inequality among the engineers of sports, it’s no wonder that marketers haven’t taken a more aggressive approach to improving upon the female fan experience.  As time progresses and women’s sports grow, I have a good feeling that women will be able to demand more.  More as athletes, more as coaches, more as execs, and more as fans.      

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