In 1972, the landmark gender equality law known as Title IX banned sex-based discrimination in educational programs that receive funding from the federal government. Up until then, the opportunities for women were limited in collegiate and professional sports, which were male-dominated both on the playing field and behind the scenes.
While there’s still much room for growth in terms of providing equal pay and better sporting facilities, we acknowledge the positive effect this game-changing legislation has made on women’s sports and look back to see how far we have come.
The WNBA is Adding More Teams
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) was founded in 1996 and currently has a dozen different teams across the country. However, in a recent interview with The Athletic, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that the league is planning on some serious expansion and may add two brand-new teams to the association before 2024. Expanding the reach of women’s basketball across the United States can open up more opportunities for female athletes in previously untapped markets.
The NWSL is Also Expanding
Perhaps the most popular women’s sport of all time is soccer, organized into official leagues in 1951. The U.S. Women’s National Team is considered the top women’s soccer team earning World Cup trophies in 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019.
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is made up of 12 different professional women’s soccer teams representing cities across the United States. The NWSL added two new teams in California, the Angel City FC and the San Diego Wave FC, which has brought increased attention to the sport.
Another sign that women’s soccer is going more mainstream is the announcement, shared by Just Women’s Sports, that the NWSL will start using Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology for the 2023 season. This state-of-the-art technology allows referees to view the action from several angles to perfect play-calling. “This will raise the professionalism and quality of officials to the standards the players, teams and fans desire,” the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) said in a press release.
The Future of Women’s Sports is Bright
The rapid rise of the WNBA and NWSL has also been driven by the players themselves. In fact, a recent panel hosted by the Aspen Institute asserted that female celebrities and other powerful women have become top investors in recent expansions.
Not only does this female leadership mean that women’s sports will be as well funded as men’s, but they will also develop differently in ways that highlight their unique points of view. Female athletes across all sports have brought light to social justice issues, including Black Lives Matter and gender pay equity. This activism has brought greater attention from fans, as well as driven larger policy changes within their leagues.
Marketing to Women’s Sports Enthusiasts
As women’s sports become increasingly popular and mainstream, brands have an opportunity to tap into this passionate and diverse fanbase. According to My Code’s Intelligence Center research, multicultural women sports fans want advertising during sports coverage to make them feel entertained (59%), informed (42%), and happy (41%).
Multicultural women also want to feel like sports ads are for them. Brands should make sure to include them in their marketing campaigns since 76% of multicultural women sports fans want more sports industry advertising to be created with them in mind. Currently, only 35% of multicultural women sports fans feel leagues, teams, brands, and companies in the sports industry are doing somewhat/very well when it comes to understanding them.