Are women’s sports finally popular?

By Grace Pointner

The world is trending on women’s rights like a hungry child reaching for cookies. Everywhere we turn, women are standing up for themselves and fighting for equal pay, safer work environments and a public voice.

To my great shock and pleasure, this trend is even beginning to appear in the male-dominated world of sports. With a record number of viewers of Women’s Wimbledon and Cricket World-Cup Finals, the percentage of female sports fans is rising and female teams are getting more coverage and positive ratings. Furthermore, female teams and individual athletes are working hard to market themselves as strong, independent athletes, not just contenders for a “sexy athlete highlight reel,” a trend we saw in the early 2000s.

Young girls, finally given the chance to play

Many attribute this to the rise in opportunity girls have to play sports at a young age. Learning sports early gives them an understanding and respect for the game while also helping them feel unified with male athletes. By allowing girls to engage with sports at a young age, they are more apt to pursue competitive sports as a career when they are older. We are seeing the result of this with the higher volume of professional female athletes active today.

More media coverage

The higher caliber of female athletes is contributing to more media coverage of women’s sports, specifically in online streaming options. Still not available through mainstream media platforms, independent companies are creating their own outlets for women’s sports streaming.

Online broadcaster Megan McNally, aware of the lack of media coverage for women’s sports and yet the desire for it, founded an online streaming venue called “Diana.” McNally remarks on her website, “Fierce competition. Spectacle. Drama. I’m in awe of people who’ve dedicated themselves to the singular pursuit of their passion. I’m here to celebrate the wins. To witness the moments of humility. To acknowledge the defeats that inspire the road to redemption. I love it all.” 

But she goes on: “Women get less than four percent of sports media air time. Tens of thousands of hours of professional and collegiate competition are buried every year by a sports media industry built by men, for men. An industry that views women as accessories, that ignores female fans and belittles female athletes… Diana was born to fill [that] void left by traditional sports media.” 

Fierce competition. Spectacle. Drama. I’m in awe of people who’ve dedicated themselves to the singular pursuit of their passion.

Services like “Diana” are finally giving women a platform to compete before the world and share their talents with fans and brands, spreading the popularity of women’s sports to a wider more welcoming audience.

Finally marketable

Additionally, with more professional female athletes and places to watch them compete, women are beginning to make a mark in sports marketing and sponsorship. Although there are only three female athletes among the top 15 sponsored athletes, companies such as Nike, Coca-Cola and Porsche are looking to endorse more women.

These sponsorships are driven by feminist movements that support women who don’t fit into the perfect  “size zero” model mold.  Moving away from confining, degrading stereotypes, women are striving for sponsorships that look beyond their “sex appeal,” discarding the “headless woman” marketing trend of the last decade. The focus is now on their stories, how relatable they are and how “real” they look.

For the first time, the world of sports is being penetrated by women and taken by storm. With over 47 percent of girls on sports teams by the age of six, and 3.2 million high school girls playing sports, this generation and the next is full of talented female athletes. This trend has leaked into media coverage, marketing and sponsorship, balancing out those male-dominated worlds and giving women another forum to have a voice in.