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Caroline FitzgeraldFebruary 8, 2024 at 2:11 PM5 min read

Forget Brand Sponsorship - Women’s Sports Need Brand Intervention

Why Bold & Equitable Brand Investment Is The Key To Growing Women’s Sports:

 

blog graphics (3)Source: Parity

Today I’m proposing that a new marketing term be added to the official sports business dictionary (if such a thing even exists…) The term is brand intervention, and I’m proposing we use this as a new option for how brands engage with women’s sports. Let me explain.👇

Right now, the widely adopted term in the sports industry for when a company pays to market their brand, products or services through a sports property is brand sponsorship. The technical definition, according to Medium, is “a strategic partnership between a brand (the sponsor) and an individual, organization, or event (the sponsored) designed to enhance the image, reach, and credibility of the sponsoring brand, where the sponsored property benefits from the resources and support the brand sponsor provides.”

Brand intervention, however, is something new and different than a traditional sponsorship. First of all, the word intervention is defined as “the action of becoming intentionally involved in a difficult situation, in order to improve it or prevent it from getting worse.” 

 

 

Therefore, brand intervention is something bolder than a traditional sponsorship transaction between a brand and a property. It's a deliberate action rooted in purpose. It’s a form of activism. It’s an active decision to spend corporate dollars to enact social change.

 

Specifically, I’m proposing that brand intervention be defined as:

 

💡 Brand Intervention (noun): A disruptive action taken by a brand in partnership with a women’s sports property with the #goal of improving the state of women’s and/or accelerating the growth of the industry. 

 

This concept has been floating around my brain since I founded GOALS & launched the Business Case For Women’s Sports podcast back in 2020. Every single day at GOALS, we call for brands to invest in women’s sports through brand sponsorships. And slowly, more brands are starting to invest. However, a new report from Sport Innovation Lab, called The ROI of Women’s Sports: A Blueprint for Value Investing revealed that while there is an increase of brand investment going into women’s sports, the majority of brands are still vastly underinvesting and not fully taking advantage of the potential ROI that women’s sports can offer. Sports Innovation Lab found that:

  • On average, brands were spending just 9% of their total sports media investment on women’s sports.
  • Eighty-three percent of brands plan to increase their investment in women’s sports in 2024, but a majority (2/3rds) are targeting an increase of 10% or less.

While all forward progress is worth celebrating, I personally think that brands can do (a lot) better - especially when we know that women’s sports still receive only 1% of the $66 billion global sports sponsorship market. To change the game and create a level playing field for women’s sports, we need more brands to step-up and take bold action with their investments. 

 

We need brand intervention. 

 

👉 So what does “brand intervention” look like?


My favorite example of brand intervention is Ally Financial’s 50/50 pledge. In May of 2022, Ally announced a commitment to spend equally in paid media across men’s and women’s sports by 2027. Why did Ally decide to do this? In an article written for Sports Pro, Stephanie Marciano, Ally’s Head of Sports and Entertainment Marketing wrote, “We quickly realized that with very intentional media investments, we could disrupt the status quo and stimulate change that would positively impact the entire women’s sports landscape.” 

 

Copy-of-Copy-of-WP-News-story-template-2023-07-13T191501.347Ally Financial helped ensure that last season’s NWSL championship game aired during primetime on CBS. Source: SportsPro Media

As their first major act of the 50/50 pledge, Ally collaborated with CBS and the NWSL to move the league’s championship game into primetime on broadcast television for the first time ever. The game pulled in nearly one million viewers, up 71% YOY. Not only has Ally’s ‘50/50 pledge’ directly accelerated the growth of women’s sports, it has also resulted in double-digit growth in the brand’s awareness, affinity, and preference. 

 

According to Marciano, Ally’s sponsorship tracking shows people who associate Ally with sports have higher preference (63%), likeability (59%), and consideration (40%) for their brand. Additionally, Ally’s research shows that consumers who associate Ally with sports are more favorable and favorable consumers are six times more likely to convert to a customer and it costs them 87% less to do so.

 

I love this example because what Ally did with their 50/50 pledge is far more than a traditional and transactional sponsorship. Ally unapologetically went all-in on women’s sports in a way that no other brand has been bold enough to do - and it’s paying off. This case study is proof that brand intervention has the power to not only impact the growth of women’s sports, it’s also a smart business move for brands. 

Now, more than ever, it’s time for more brands to intervene to improve the state of women’s sports and fuel the growth of the industry. Every brand intervention puts a giant crack in the sports industry’s glass ceiling and brings us closer to creating equity in sports and beyond. 

 


About Caroline Fitzgerald
Caroline Fitzgerald (she/her) is a contributing writer for Parity and the CEO & Founder of GOALS - a women's sports marketing consultancy & media platform. Caroline launched GOALS in 2020 after recognizing that there was an opportunity to help women's sports teams sign more sponsorship deals - and help brands see the business value around investing in women's sports. GOALS also produces the leading women's sports business podcast - The Business Case for Women's Sports, which is presented by Ally. For more information on GOALS, visit https://goals-sports.com or follow on InstagramLinkedInFacebookX (formerly Twitter) and Threads


About Parity
Minority-founded in 2020, Parity's mission is to close the gender income and opportunity gap in professional sports. By developing high-impact collaborations between brands, professional women athletes and their fans, Parity has proudly put more than $2 million in the pockets of women athletes, attracting dozens of brands to the movement in the process. The platform offers connections to more than 1000 women athletes from 80+ sports, including well over 200 Olympians and Paralympians. For more information on how to tap into the rapidly rising influence and popularity of women athletes, visit https://paritynow.co or follow us on InstagramLinkedInFacebookX (formerly Twitter) and Threads

 


 

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Caroline Fitzgerald

Caroline Fitzgerald is a contributing writer for Parity and the CEO & Founder of GOALS - a women's sports marketing consultancy & media platform. After launching GOALS in 2020, Caroline has quickly become a force for good and thought leader in the women's sports space.

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