Gone are the days when women's sports were relegated to the background, and it's about time we all take notice. They are now front and center, dazzling us with sheer talent, grit, and an unapologetic flair for drama. Women's professional sports have witnessed a remarkable upswing in revenue, reflecting a major shift in perception and commercial viability. This trend can be attributed to several key factors, including increased media coverage, greater corporate sponsorships, and a growing global audience. It's simple: women's sports are here, they're fierce, and they're reshaping the landscape of athletics as we know it.
In a landmark prediction by Deloitte, women’s professional sports are expected to surpass a revenue milestone of $1B by 2024, marking a 300% increase since 2021. This financial boom is a testament to the growing fanfare and marketing efforts in women’s sports. The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, for example, brought in over $570M in revenue, produced record-breaking ticket sales, and experienced an all-time high in broadcasting viewership. Sports publishers like The Gist even reported greater ad revenue from the women’s World Cup than the men’s tournament, while Front Office Sports reported an even yield between both genders. Compared to years past, results like these are monumental. They challenge the traditional narrative around women’s professional sports, often seen as a cost center rather than a revenue generator, and reflect their growing commercial appeal.
Networks and media moguls alike are placing more focus than ever on tapping into women’s sports audiences. During a meeting with NCAA President Mark Emmert, Georgia Tech Coach Nell Fortner passionately announced: "We're a huge potential revenue stream." She highlighted the longevity of college athletes, their ability to attract new fans, and the need for a change in perspective. Her plea reflects a growing consensus that women's elite sports represent a significant investment opportunity. Take the NCAA women's basketball, for instance. Their games are now must-watch events, with last summer’s championship game between LSU and Iowa drawing 10M viewers. Thanks to gritty performances by Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark, the game became the most-watched college sporting event ever broadcasted on the ESPN+ platform.
Record-breaking viewership has caught the attention of major brands and venture capitalists who all want in on women’s sports growing appeal. Now more than ever, aligning with women's sports isn't just goodwill– it's smart business. In recent years, we’ve seen AT&T, Deloitte, and Nike all become prominent WNBA partners. Sky Sports and the BBC are now committing an annual $20M to the Women’s Super League in the UK. In addition, Barclays’ recent sponsorship in the FA Women’s Super League and Gucci’s partnership with professional footballer Leah Williamson highlight the investment value behind female athletes. Even venture capitalists agree: a new NWSL team in Los Angeles, backed by Silicon Valley venture capital, points to the increasing valuation of female sports professional teams, now ranging between $20M to $100M. These developments underscore the rising importance of media and marketing in elevating the profile and profitability of women's professional sports. It's a win-win, with companies gaining positive exposure and women's sports basking in the financial glow.
And let's not forget the global audience - women's sports have truly gone international, as events like the Women's World Cup and the WNBA now draw record viewership in both the United States and Europe. As these leagues gain more recognition and visibility around the world, they are attracting a larger and more diverse audience. Fans from all corners of the world are tuning in, buying merchandise, and passionately following their favorite teams and athletes. This enthusiasm is evident in the Australian national team’s jersey sales during the last World Cup. Sales were up 19 to 1 compared to 2019, with the Matildas Nike kit quickly selling out in brick and mortar stores. Nike’s Pacific VP, Ashley Reade, told Octus Sports that the record sales are "a true testament to the power and pull of women’s sport” across the globe.
This shift in women's athletics goes beyond financial aspects, marking a cultural renaissance in the sports world. The synergy of enhanced media coverage, sponsorships, and a growing global audience has propelled women to the forefront. As we approach 2024, the future of women's athletics is filled with promise and excitement. This period is not just about athletic capability but also about the increasing influence of female athletes as role models. Their impact, combined with record-breaking global engagement, is setting the stage for 2024 to be a landmark year in shaping the cultural significance of women's sports.