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WOMEN AND SPORTS: THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN'
Published November 3, 1994
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.