Women are cheering from your bleachers and joining your fantasy leagues. They have a big say in ticket and merchandise sales. And, according to 2014 Neilsen statistics, 35 percent of fans in the MLB, NBA and NHL are women. “The NFL’s viewing audience is even higher at about 48 percent female,” says Liz Loza, a fantasy football analyst for Yahoo Sports, noting that women’s participation in fantasy sports jumped to 34 percent in 2015.
While organizations may see their female fans sitting in the risers, they have not fully learned how to engage them. Last year, for example, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers launched a program called RED and faced much criticism online and in the media over content aimed at females. (Offerings leaned toward fashion, recipes and painfully basic football education.) Kate Morrison, a Dallas-based sports writer, recalls the Charleston RiverDogs’ breast cancer awareness campaign last year. It featured a limited-edition “Bobble Boobs” bobblehead. “It was not even a figure of a woman. It was just boobies on a spring,” says Morrison.
For organizations hoping to better connect with female fans, here are some leading practices.
Hire women at all levels of your organization.
Managing roles are primarily male-dominated, which is why “Bobble Boobs”-style missteps continue, Morrison says. “If from the very beginning you have women in positions of communication and authority, you’re going to end up with a product that is more appealing to women in general,” she says. The industry is bound to benefit from a string of recent firsts, including female coach hires (Kathryn Smith at the Buffalo Bills) and top management (Kim Ng, the MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations).
Appreciate the complexity of the female fan base.
Women often complain about being stereotyped as uncommitted, uninformed fans who only show up “to drink colorful drinks and look at guys in tight pants,” says Morrison. Teams need to understand that women can be hard-core fans, casual fans or “bandwagoners,” says Morrison, just as men can.