Women’s professional sports are on pace to pass the $1 billion revenue mark in 2024.
Historically, women's sports have been significantly overshadowed by men’s sports. For decades, women’s sports have received just 4% of total media coverage (now 15% as of 2023), 1% of sponsorship dollars, and have experienced significant inequities in almost every aspect of the game - like pay gaps, exploitation, lackluster facilities, inadequate medical support, and more.
One of the justifications for these shortcomings is that for a long time, women’s sports haven’t been recognized as a business opportunity that is worthy of investment. Antiquated views about women’s sports as fledgling “causes” or “charities” have kept the industry confined to a restrictive corporate social responsibility box. Instead of being treated like a viable business, women’s sports have almost exclusively been used as an outlet for accepting small “donations” from brands (without any expectations or promises of returns) or as a performative way to make headlines during Women’s History Month or on International Women’s Day.
On the whole, the sports world has failed to operate the women’s side of the industry like a business; and in doing so, has failed to scale women’s sports to its full potential.
However, these last few years, we’ve started to see a shift in the ecosystem. As more decision makers who believe in the value proposition of women’s sport gain economic power, we’ve seen more investment come into the space. And with this increased investment, we’ve seen (not surprisingly) some massive returns. Almost every day, we see a new headline or article about the record-breaking business results that women’s sports are driving - from viewership, to attendance, to sponsorship, to broadcast deals, and more. For anyone who has been paying attention, it’s pretty clear that women’s sports have entered into a new era; an era in which they are viewed as big business, rather than a charity play.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, here’s something that is pretty hard to ignore: women’s sports will be a billion dollar industry in 2024.
This week, a new report from Deloitte came out that predicts that women’s elite sports will generate $1.28 billion in global revenue in 2024. Which means, for the first time in history, annual global revenue for women’s sport will surpass the $1 billion mark.
According to Jennifer Haskel, insights lead for Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, “Over the last few years we have seen exceptional growth in women’s sport across the globe, driving a significant uplift in its commercial value, which in turn has led to growing interest from investors.”
Women's elite sport revenues 2022-2024, via Deloitte
Reading Jennifer’s quote reminded me of the classic line from the old men’s baseball movie, Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” Investment into women’s sports has driven growth, which has in turn increased the business value of women’s sports, which is now attracting more investment. By investing just a little bit into the infrastructure of women’s sports, the value has started to come - quickly.
Deloitte predicts that the two most valuable women’s sports in 2024 will be football (or soccer) and basketball, while the largest geographical markets in 2024 are forecasted to be North America and Europe. The majority of revenue ($696M) will come from commercial revenue (aka sponsorships, partnerships, and merchandise sales), followed by broadcast revenue ($340M), and finally, matchday (or gameday) revenue ($240M) will take the total over the $1 billion mark.
Jennifer went on to say, “In order to ensure this growth remains consistent and sustainable, sports organisations must ensure that investment is directed to the right places such as encouraging fan loyalty, player welfare and maintaining competition across leagues.”
Deloitte’s analysis proves just how big the business of women’s sports can be, and as leaders in women’s sports, we have a huge opportunity ahead of us to scale this industry to an incredible place. Anyone who still views women’s sports as a “cause” or “charity” will miss out on a significant business opportunity. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until I’m blue in the face: it’s simply good business to invest in women’s sports.
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 Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and Threads.
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 950 women athletes from 75+ 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 Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and Threads.