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Execs Discuss Challenges Impeding The Growth Of Women's Sports

The kickoff panel for the inaugural SBJ/SBD Game Changers conference this morning focused on two big challenges impeding the continued growth of women’s sports – a dearth of media coverage and selling corporate sponsors on investing in women’s sports when traditional ROI measurements might not work. The panel – titled “The Executive Point of View: Examining the Intersection of Women and Sports” – included execs from the WNBA, LPGA, NFL, WTA, Atlantic 10 Conference and USOC.

THE CHALLENGE OF MEDIA COVERAGE: In a media environment with fewer local beat reporters and a national media still dominated by men’s sports, that often means telling players’ stories directly to fans, often through digital and social media. WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster said, “Mainstream content is not there for us. We have to take our destiny in our own hands.” Allaster said that less than 10% of coverage on ESPN is dedicated to women’s sports, and an even slimmer portion of its flagship program, “SportsCenter.” LPGA CFO Kathy Milthorpe: “We’re going to have to cover our sport ourselves. It’s one of the biggest challenges for us.” Added WNBA President Laurel Richie: “We’re doing everything we can to tell the stories of our players.”

CONVINCING THE CORPORATE WORLD: Winning over corporate sponsors without the same depth of exposure enjoyed by long-established men’s pro sports means working harder to develop custom solutions. USOC CMO Lisa Baird: “We go directly at (sponsors) in terms of their business objectives.” Allaster: “Tell us the markets that work for you and we’ll build the package for you.” A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said cause marketing, such as the fight against breast cancer, has also served women’s sports well, to the point where men’s sports have adopted similar strategies.

QUICK HITS: What is your top priority, tactic or strategy going forward?

Allaster, emphasizing the importance of focusing on the growth of the sport in the Asia/Pacific region, as well as using digital content to tell the athletes’ stories: “These are huge celebrities. People care what they eat and who they hang with.”

Milthorpe: “Digital is key.”

Richie: “Telling the players’ stories.”

Baird: “How to do quality coverage on digital.”

NFL CMO Mark Waller: “Extraordinary competition, delivered spectacularly.”

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Related Topics:

Game Changers, Media, WNBA, NBA, LPGA, NFL, WTA, USOC, ESPN

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