LONDON: A number of leading brands are increasingly getting involved in the sponsorship of women’s sport, yet despite evidence that 59% of the UK population express interest in at least one women’s sport, some industry experts believe many brands are too reticent.

“There’s still a perception that the market is relatively immature or it’s one that they don’t know terribly well, so the sense or risk seems a little high,” said Jo Bostock, co-founder and joint CEO of the Women’s Sport Trust (WST), in comments reported by Marketing Week.

“The big thing we picked up on when we were sounding out CMOs is that there isn’t enough data to support the claims that women’s sport is making about itself,” she added.

With that in mind, WST teamed up with Nielsen Sport and England Hockey, the sport’s national governing body, to delve into public attitudes to women’s sports and found a level of interest that might surprise some marketers.

For example, of the 59% of people who say they are interested in at least one women’s sport, they divide almost equally between women (51%) and men (49%), so dispelling the misconception that only women and girls take an interest.

The analysis also showed that younger people aged 16 to 24 are most likely to be interested, while 40% of the overall UK population would consider watching a women’s sport live.

Football (21%), rugby (16%) and cricket (16%) are the most popular women’s sports among consumers, who regard women’s sport as competitive (48%), skilled (41%), inspiring (36%), successful (33%), progressive (30%) and clean (21%).

And with the FIFA Women’s World Cup football tournament due to take place in France next year, it emerged that 64% of the British public are already aware of the event, with another 42% aware of the Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Meanwhile, England has been hosting the Women’s Hockey World Cup over the past fortnight and England Hockey reported that it had received 120,000 applications for tickets with England matches oversubscribed by 40,000.

Jonathan Cockcroft, commercial director of England Hockey, said interest – from both brands and supporters – had surged since the team won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016, but he urged more brands to get involved.

“There aren’t enough marketing directors and CMOs out there that have the imagination, the bravery and the gut instincts to go for something that’s slightly less mainstream,” he said.

“Also there are not enough agencies that are prepared to put some of the more non-mainstream properties in front of the big brands,” he added.

Sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by WARC staff