By Anne Lewicki | November 19, 2020Reading Time: 6 minutes
2020 has been a year sports fans will never forget. With all the ups and downs professional sports have endured this year, there is one area that continues to be a guiding light and that is, the advancement of females within sport.
On July 20th, Alyssa Nakken became the first female to coach during an MLB game. On September 27th, Jennifer King, Callie Brownson, and Sarah Thomas made NFL history as the first female coaches to run the sidelines and officiate on the field. On November 13th, Kim Ng became the first female General Manager of an MLB team as well as the first female GM in any of the big four professional men’s leagues in North America.
But how do these monumental female advancements translate to the rest of sports? The rest of this blog aims to look at how female involvement at the highest level of professional sports can impact marketing, elevate fan engagement, and empower the next generation.
2020 studies have shown that between 45-50% of casual sports fans in the United States are females. Yet when you look at any of the big four professional sports leagues’ social media accounts, the majority of content is male dominated and driven to increase male engagement. Currently, all of the big four leagues are missing out on almost half of their market, but a major reason for that is because they don’t have a lot of female based content that they can share.
Flashback to July 21st MLB posts a photo of Alyssa Nakken on their Instagram account announcing her as the first female to coach in the MLB. This post received 372,400 likes and 3,337 comments. To put that into context, when MLB posted on their Instagram announcing that the LA Dodgers had won the 2020 World Series, that post only received 343,400 likes. The post featuring Alyssa received 29,000 more likes, which amounts to almost a 10% engagement increase when posting about female advancement. The same can be seen on November 13th when MLB announced the hiring of Kim Ng on Instagram, where the post gained over 246,000 likes. Once again for comparison, the average number of likes on all MLB Instagram posts for the month of November leading up to the announcement of Kim was only 128,600. Another concrete example where tailoring social posts to focus on women increased engagement by over 90%.
By posting about these incredible female achievements, it helps create organic content that better helps female fans connect to the game. It gives young girls role models and a new reason to tune into sports for more than just the game itself. Integrating a female presence into the social accounts and marketing initiatives of professional sports leagues is the next technique to attract and capture the female market. Female leadership creates so many new opportunities for fan engagement as well. The San Francisco Giants now can offer a girl’s baseball clinic, but rather than being coached by male coaches, these young girls can be coached by the first female coach in the MLB. It is new fan engagement opportunities similar to this that will have young girls lining up to swing for the fences and grow the game.
It is through these ground-breaking hiring’s that teams and leagues can create new opportunities to grow their marketing, fan engagement, and the game itself. This is a chance for leagues to attract an entirely new fan; the inspired fan.
The inspired fan is the individual who likes the game, but loves the idea that one day they’ll be able to work in the sport. It’s the young girl who will watch every Miami Marlins game during the 2021 season because it is now her dream to become the next female GM.
To achieve something, you must first be able to visualize it. With the advancement of women in sport this past year, millions of little girls now have that ability. Women around the world now get to see that it is possible to obtain these positions that were previously only held by men. To ensure that women continue to advance within sports, we need to work together and help each other get there. Seeing more women in leadership roles will help inspire young girls to continue on their paths. It is important for these young professionals to take note of all of the incredible resources already available that can help elevate women within sport.
Kim Ng started as an intern with the Chicago White Sox and worked her way up to being an MLB General Manager after almost three decades in the sport. While not everyone will be able to intern at a professional club right out of school, there are many other amazing internship opportunities where women can start their sports journey. Looking outside of the professional club range at opportunities like Cosmos Sports & Entertainment’s internship program is another great way for women to get their start in sports. It is through internships that these young sports professionals will learn the basics and build their foundation to continue forward and one day become the next female GM.
As more and more women earn leadership roles within sports, mentoring opportunities will grow exponentially. Organizations like Women In Sports and Events (WISE) and Women in Sports Tech (WIST) all provide mentorship programs, seminars, and workshops that allow the next generation of female leaders to learn directly from the trailblazing women before them. These mentorship programs create a ripple effect as mentees become mentors who will continue to help the generations to come, so that eventually the idea of women in sports will no longer be an anomaly, but instead be a part of the norm.
The opportunity is there. Professional leagues have the ability to hire top female talent and in the process attract and engage with a massive female fan base. Female advancement in sport is heading in the right direction, and will only continue to grow from here.