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Women as consumers and fans

This is an excerpt from Women and Sport by Ellen Staurowsky.

Women have more purchasing power than ever before. In fact, they now account for $7 trillion in consumer and business spending in the United States. Over the next decade, they will control two-thirds of consumer wealth. Additionally, women make or influence 85 percent of all purchasing decisions and purchase more than 50 percent of products traditionally bought by men, including home improvement products, automobiles, and consumer electronics (Krasny, 2012). In other words, women are the ones buying soft drinks, breakfast cereals, athletic shoes - and most other everyday items.


Despite these very telling statistics, various assumptions are made about female sport consumers and consumers of women’s sport. For starters, marketing executives may consider women to be uninterested in sport, therefore concluding that targeting female consumers in sport sponsorship is ineffective (Ridinger & Funk, 2006). This assumption is unlikely true, considering that more than 43 percent of athletes who competed at NCAA institutions in 2011-2012, amounting to nearly 200,000, were women (Irick, 2012).


A second assumption is that men are not interested in women’s sports. Contrary to this statement, SBRnet’s annual Sports Fan/Social Media Report (2012) notes that almost 59 percent of the WNBA’s viewing audience is male. Similarly, 63.4 percent of the LPGA’s fan base is male ("Fans of PGA," 2011). While these statistics don’t represent all women’s sports, it is apparent that men do indeed watch women’s sports with some regularity.


Also, there is the question of whether or not female sports fans are different from male sports fans. For example, one study revealed that men preferred watching combative sports while women preferred stylistic sports (Sargent, Zillmann, & Weaver, 1998). Similarly, when asked their favorite sports, men named more aggressive sports than women did (Wann & Ensor, 2001). However, other studies have found that female fans’ interests actually coincide with those of their male companions (Farrell, Fink, & Fields, 2011; Whiteside & Hardin, 2011). Assuming this statement is true, wouldn’t this mean women are watching just as much violent sport as their male counterparts? Other research found that male college students tend to be more involved with sport as spectators than female students. The men invested more time listening, watching, reading, and talking about sports, and were more emotionally involved (Bahk, 2000). Women place much more value on the social aspects of attending or being involved in a sporting event (Ridinger & Funk, 2006). Research has also indicated that male sports fans differ from female sports fans in their perceptions of pre-event influences (ticket prices, advertising), present behavior (merchandise purchases, wearing of team apparel, media consumption), and future behavior (loyalty, attendance intentions; Fink, Trail, & Anderson, 2002).


The fact that fans of women’s and men’s sports may differ in nature shouldn’t be a death sentence for women’s sport. In fact, marketing strategies should differ from sport to sport, since no one blanket approach exists that will effectively reach all sport fans and markets. Embracing the differences between sports and genders is the only way marketers will be successful in marketing a unique product.

Learn more about Women and Sport: From Liberation to Celebration.