When someone asks you to picture your target audience for sports marketing, what comes to mind? Are the fans male or female? Did you automatically picture a group of guys sitting around watching the game together? Most people would envision males rather than females due to stereotypes. The world of sports has long been considered a male domain. As such, the majority of sports marketers focus on male fans, thus ignoring a significant portion of their fan base. The stereotype in society is that women watch soap operas while men watch sports, when in fact 60% of women report watching sports regularly while 42% of women noted that they regularly watch soap operas. This fact alone shows the large portion of the sports market that female fans make-up. Not acknowledging the female fan base can result in lost dollars for an organization, team, network or even ticket outlet, not to mention the brands sponsoring or affiliated with those organizations.

Why female fans?

Research shows that females comprise nearly 50% of the fan base for National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA) and NASCAR, meaning half of the fan base is not the focus of advertising campaigns. Looking at the NFL and MLB in particular, women comprise 47% of all MLB fans and 44% of NFL fans. Beyond fan statistics, 70% of important family decisions are made by the female head of household, in addition to controlling the allocation of disposable income (i.e. purchases, vacations, leisure activities). Given all of these facts, shouldn’t the individual most likely to make the purchasing decisions be a focus of the sports marketing?

Leveraging Female Fans

At the 2005 Professional Audio Retailers Association Management Conference, a seminar was given encouraging marketers to better target female consumers. Seminar hosts encouraged marketers to acknowledge and address the specific needs of the female consumer. This should be no different amongst sports marketers and their target audience. If various industries are developing marketing specifically for female fans, then why isn’t the sports industry putting a greater emphasis on this?

Sports marketers are beginning to leverage the female audience, but so much more can be done. The NFL was the first to offer a female clothing line, something that other leagues are following suit in. One area where the NFL is excelling is in the programs offered to female fans. The league has developed Football 101 and Football 201 to provide women with an interactive experience with their favorite team. Baseball has historically run fantasy camps to provide fans with an interactive experience, but these were for males only. In the winter of 2011, the New York Yankees became the first MLB team to offer a fantasy camp specifically for women. Women who attended the camp described it as an amazing experience that only heightened their loyalty as fans. Many of the women had already made plans to attend future fantasy camps due to the positive experience. Offering experiences such as these for female fans, especially after seeing the positive response from the attendees, is a niche area that sports marketers can capitalize on in order to increase revenue for the organization and brand loyalty among fans.

Beyond just organizations, marketers for sports networks or ticket outlets can also leverage female fans to increase their revenue. Aiming advertising campaigns to target women in addition to men is a great start. Mother’s day ticket promotions by ticket outlets, similar to what we see for Father’s Day, could be one way to engage this untapped demographic. Another option could be to sponsor a “Ladies Day Out” where tickets are sold at a promotional price for women. Lastly, why wait and focus on adult females? Many professional sports organizations cater to the Boy Scouts, so why not have a Girl Scouts day at a game? It’s important to keep females in mind when generating your sports marketing strategy.