SBD/3/Sports Industrialists

WOMEN AND SPORTS: THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN'

     Donna Lopiano is Executive Director of the Women's Sports
Foundation.  For this week's "Insider Interview," Lopiano spoke
with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY on the emerging role of women in
sports, as consumers, fans, viewers -- as well as the prospect of
future women's pro leagues.
     THE DAILY:  With all the labor problems in major league
sports, why isn't there more talk about women's sports?
     LOPIANO:  If women's professional sports were already
developed, they might be considered an alternative to striking
leagues.  With the exception of the LPGA, WTA and some pro beach
volleyball, there has literally been little or nothing except
individual participation. ... The history of women's professional
team sports in the U.S. has been a litany of investors with
terrible strategic plans, placing franchises in markets where
they're going head to head with already developed men's sport
products --and doomed to fail.  Coupled with the fact that many
of these were started 10 to 15 years ago when women did not have
the opportunities and did not have skills that you would call
professional level. ... It's really changed in the last 10 years.
You now have a large enough pool where -- I don't care what the
sport is -- you can put together a pro women's team sport.
     THE DAILY:  Is there a change going on in terms of women's
sports participation and viewing habits?
     LOPIANO:  No question.  When you look at participation data,
prior to 1977 only one in every 27 high school girls played
varsity sports.  That figure today is one-in-three.  And the
figure for boys is one-in-two.  So women are probably halfway
there, in terms of where guys currently are.  For the very first
time, we've got eight years of athletes who've had the
opportunity to weight train, to have quality coaches, to have had
athletic scholarships in schools.  Athletic scholarships didn't
happen until 1975.
     THE DAILY:  What does it take to attract the female
demographic (18-39), from a viewer and consumer standpoint?
     LOPIANO:  I would think it only takes someone who has an
interest in a sport.  And you are more likely to be interested if
you've played it and therefore understand it.  It's very hard
just to observe it and demonstrate a passion. ... It's no
accident that NBA Properties has a woman's line and is selling
actively to women, even though most of their demographics are
still men.  Forty percent of their in-arena spectators, I
understand are women and thirty percent of their TV spectators
are women.
     THE DAILY:  Who are the leaders in the sports industry in
terms of appealing to women?
     LOPIANO:  There's no doubt that there are a number of
companies who have grabbed the gauntlet, in terms of changing the
face of sports to include women.  Reebok, who made their money
off of women's fitness, is now jumping head over heels into
women's sports.  The kind of money and the kind of effort they're
going in with to promote female athletes, as opposed to women's
fitness, is really extraordinary.  But you can look at companies
as diverse as Gillette.  Gillette has a history in men's sports
and now they're getting into women's sports.  A product like milk
is going big time into women's sports because of the osteoporosis
connection.  All of these companies are seeing the marketing
value of playing to an untapped market, and they're going in big
time.
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Related Topics:

LPGA, NBA, Reebok, People and Pop Culture

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