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Volume 26 No. 139
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Women's Sports Enters Critical Time To Pursue Opportunities

Andress believes increasing fan engagement in women’s sports is key to growing mainstream interest
Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
Andress believes increasing fan engagement in women’s sports is key to growing mainstream interest
Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
Andress believes increasing fan engagement in women’s sports is key to growing mainstream interest
Photo: MARC BRYAN-BROWN

While women in sports continue to fight for equal pay and other inequalities continue, panelists at the '19 Game Changers conference were generally bullish on the overall state of the women’s sports landscape today. “Women’s sports is probably at one of its most pinnacle times in our society in that there’s opportunities for change,” said Brenda Andress, Founder & President of SheIS. “One of those things for us at SheIS is to come together with those partners and promote women’s sports. That’s an opportunity that exists today that did not exist in the past.” Through SheIS, Andress is focused on increasing fan engagement in women’s sports. The organization encourages fans to take a pledge that they will watch or attend a women’s sporting event in order to increase awareness. She believes that growing a fan base is a business plan that can attract sponsors, who see fans as a return on their investment. “We’re making strides, but I think there’s still a lot of room to grow,” said Taylor Strick, who serves as Senior Marketing Manager for Corporate Partnerships at Aon.

SPORTS TO LOOK TO: Strick, among the other members of the panel, lauded women’s tennis as the model to follow in terms of equal pay and media coverage. The panelists cited the sport’s ability to successfully attract the same fan at the same time in major tournaments that feature both men and women. The panelists also noted that women’s tennis has been active at the professional level for a longer period of time. Strick has helped increase fan engagement in women’s sports and pay for female athletes by helping create the Aon Risk Rewards Challenge on the PGA and LPGA tours. The winner of the season-long challenge who plays the best on a select number of holes during the year receives a $1M check. Strick also noted AIG’s decision to increase the Women’s British Open purse this year to $4.5M as another sign of sponsors becoming more engaged in women’s sports. 

STILL WORK TO DO: MMA fighter and boxer Heather Hardy is still waiting for more investment into women’s boxing and mixed martial arts. She said more women following Ronda Rousey need to be given a chance to lead a fight card in order to pave the way for others. “Boxing is really far behind the other sports,” Hardy said. “It was just in 2012 when women were allowed to box in the Olympics and as late as the 1990s when women could box in the Golden Gloves.”