Why tech sponsorship can be a game-changer for women’s sport

Emily Bramwell

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The last year has been an almighty big one for women’s sports. Attendance records have been broken, coverage rights have been snapped up, and viewership figures are soaring faster than Chloe Kelly’s penalty kick that sent England to the World Cup quarter-final. (That was 111km/h to be precise, a speed faster than any single kick recorded in the 2022-2023 men’s Premier League season). 

The numbers speak for themselves. A Deloitte study predicts that in 2024, for the first time ever, women’s elite sports will generate a revenue that surpasses one billion dollars, 300% higher than its 2021 prediction. This exponential growth is despite women’s sport still only having a seventh of the media coverage that the men’s does. There’s huge untapped potential still to unlock in a sector that’s only just firing up.

This International Women’s Day, we take a look into why tech companies and women’s sports are the ultimate sponsorship power couple. 

Purposeful partnerships

Sports sponsorship offers a unique opportunity for brands. You’re not only associating your brand with a product, you’re associating it with a lifestyle, a community, and a legacy. That’s why the key to a successful partnership is one driven by a harmonious set of values, towards a mutual end goal. Fans want to see how sponsors are actively going to improve the sport and its surrounding community.

When it comes to women’s sport, while this responsibility gets greater, so does the potential reward. Viewing figures for women’s sport in the UK are soaring by 131% year-on-year. As the audiences continue to grow, brands have the opportunity to invest early in a market ready to boom. 

While it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of all this growth, women are far from competing on an even playing field. From Luis Rubiales planting an unsolicited kiss on Jenni Hermoso as she was about to lift the World Cup trophy, to Joey Barton’s misogynistic comments about female pundits, the past year has highlighted the amount of work still left to be done. 

This makes women’s sport sponsorship inherently purpose driven. And with purpose being a territory which 65% of UK sports fans say they want to see more of, brands have the opportunity to not only see a return on investment, but to establish themselves as a part of the movement towards gender equality. 

A winning team 

What was once tobacco, then beer, then gambling, the major players in sports sponsorship have not only been targeted at male audiences, but their industries have always felt disconnected from the high performance of elite sports. Whether it’s shaving 0.1 seconds off your lap time in motorsport or adding an extra 0.1 metres to your golf swing, sport today is all about micro-improvements. From wearable technology to track performance, to data analytics tools to find those micro-improvements, a huge amount of innovation goes on behind the scenes.

That’s why tech is the most natural sponsor of sports we’ve seen. And for the women’s game, it has the potential to play a pivotal role in fast-tracking progress towards equality.

Advancing the game

Due to years of under-investment and a shortage of research, female athletes can often lack the support they need to excel at the rate of their male counterparts. While the male game sees the highest levels of innovation implemented behind the scenes, there is still a distinct lack of technological improvements in women-specific equipment and apparel. 

Take women’s football as an example, at one point last season, 25% of the 2022 Ballon d’Or nominees were sidelined with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. Research released last year revealed how the use of unsuitable football kit could increase the chances of this injury. When it comes to a boot, a woman’s foot differs in shape and size to a man’s, and an average lighter body weight affects the length of studs required. While boots have long been advertised for women, they haven’t been designed for their bodies.

Showing how tech can support women on the field, as Official Insights Partner to the 2023 Women’s Six Nations, Sage introduced the Smart Ball. Utilising Sage’s unique access to insights, it offers players, coaches, commentators and supporters valuable data and insights into the game. Crucially, it has been specifically developed and adjusted for the women’s games to take into account the differences between the male and female player. Not only does it work towards advancing the sport, but it positions Sage as a market leader in data and insights. 

Bringing fans closer to the action

SPORT Unlimited’s ‘The Female Fan Opportunity’ report found that while half of women in the UK identify as a sports fan, 31% said they weren’t familiar with women’s teams, players or competitions. A crucial element of engaging these fans is providing consistent coverage. 

In football, only 2% of print and 6% of television football news mentions in the UK are dedicated to the women’s game, compared to 98% and 94% achieved by the men’s game respectively, highlighting the ground still to be made up to enable fans to fully connect with women’s sport. 

But while the broadcast world plays catch up, tech can lead the charge by providing the tools and platforms needed to connect fans to the sport. Whether it’s through social media activations, live-streaming, or more bespoke digital campaigns.

Through its partnership with The FA, the Google Pixel has launched an initiative to increase the quantity and quality of women’s football coverage, inspiring fans, young and old, to get involved with the sport. Creators and presenters will work together to tell the stories of women in football from unique perspectives. From the professional level to grassroots football, creators will use the Google Pixel to capture powerful moments surrounding the sport.

It’s a great example of how the product can be the hero of the story, connecting fans to the action and driving womens sport forward.

Finding new audiences 

While at the core of every purpose-driven sponsorship should be the mission at hand, brands can simultaneously benefit from the partnership. As audiences grow, brands affiliated can get more share of voice among supporters and amplify their brand visibility on a global scale.

A great example of this is Adobe becoming the title sponsor and tech supplier of the Women’s FA Cup. Through the partnership, all 460 teams that participate in the competition will gain access to Adobe Express, an all-in-one content creation application that makes it easy to create social media and brand content. The hope is that the technology will make it easier for teams to engage fans and increase awareness on digital channels, driving attendance and participation. 

With the Adobe name and branding featured across the tournament’s channels, Adobe will be in the living rooms of everyone tuning in, and front of mind for all audiences engaging digitally. The partnership landed great coverage not only in sports press but national too, promoting the purpose behind the sponsorship and creating positive sentiment around the brand.

Women’s sport needs technology as a partner to power it towards the mission of equal funding and equal coverage. For tech brands looking to amplify their product while driving purpose, there is truly a momentous opportunity in front of them. 

The women’s game is finally getting the hype it deserves, and if you disagree, then I think I’d have to quote the wise Mary Earps…