Last week, one of sports’ all-time most amazing benchmarks of excellence was eclipsed when the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team won its 89th straight game with a win over Florida State. Even before the win was in the books, the debate was on as to whether or not this streak compared with the 88-game win streak by John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins in the early 1970s.
Regardless of where one falls on the debate, it’s impossible not to be impressed with what Geno Auriemma has done with the program at UConn. The streak has helped shine a deserving light on women’s athletics. Some in the press have argued that the record hasn’t gotten its due; that people don’t care enough about what should be a hailed as a major achievement. Without taking a side in that argument, we’ll just say, they might have a point.
But, let’s take that argument a step further. Should marketers do more to support women’s athletics? Our answer: Sure….IF, it makes sense for them to do so. Advocates have long stressed that marketers should support women’s sports because it’s the right and fair thing to do. They have additionally suggested that marketers miss reaching women when they don’t include sponsorship of women’s sports in their alliance-marketing portfolios.
The problem with that argument is that there is plenty of data that suggests otherwise. Oh, it’s not that women don’t care about women’s sports; it’s just that they don’t follow them in big numbers. In fact, women sports fans tend to follow sports in similar patterns to men. While special events such as the Olympics are viewed heavily by women, we’ve contended for years that the Olympics are not similar in any way to following professional sports leagues. There’s a reason, after all, that there are not professional swimming and gymnastics leagues.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that sheer audience numbers should not necessarily be the primary driver of sponsorship decisions. It is vital to consider also what an alliance with a property says about your brand. If the right message can be crafted with a partnership of women’s sports, and that messaging can be activated creatively, then a women’s sports property may be the ideal partnership for your brand.
As always, your brand objectives should be driving the bus. Marketers should not be guilted into a sponsorship decision. But, at the same time, marketers should not rule something out that may be the perfect brand fit based simply on audience size. As the name of our company suggests, we believe in the “depth” of a connection, not just the breadth.