Shrink it and pink it – Five steps you can take this year to market your sports product better to women

women-1179435_1920It’s Women’s Sports Week. It’s a chance to celebrate women’s sport but also to ask what went wrong.

Because by the time girls hit 14, only 12% of them are active enough. And that’s just the start of it. Throughout sport, women are under-represented, under-funded and mis-understood. And it goes right to the top. At board level, only around half of funded NGBs have even a quarter of their board posts filled by women.

Sports funders have rightly targeted women as a key participation group. But the answer for sports service and product providers trying to attract women to sport needs to be more sophisticated than to ‘shrink it and pink it’.

Here are five practical steps towards better engagement with women and girls

“Women and girls are different. From men and boys. From each other.”

(1) Women and girls are different. From men and boys. From each other.

The point here is that if you are targeting a product at new mums, you need to use different language and different channels than if you wanted to talk to elderly women with chronic conditions. It’s a simple point but there’s little that cuts through better than highly personalised marketing. That’s why Adidas has a range marketed specifically at 13-17 year-old female athletes and why the RFU has just released shirts designed specifically women to play the game.

(2) Invest in insight. Invest in workforce diversity.

Both are ways to ensure that your organisation better understands the audience it is trying to reach. If you can’t afford your own insight, there’s wealth of resources. Start with Women in Sport’s good stuff.


(3) Go through all the imagery you use to promote your activity or product.

Does that stock represent a) women and b) a range of women or c) the type of women you want to reach? Under Armour’s highly successful relationship with US prima ballerina Misty Copeland recognises that ‘pinking it’ doesn’t provide the role models women want in sport and physical activity. Like men, women want to see and hear compelling stories about role models, not simply see them dolled up in little black dresses. . Only this week, Getty have made a package of images of sportswomen available for free to some users.

(4) Sell or buy sponsorship packages that combine men’s and women’s versions of your activity.

Not only does that send the right messages to participants and funders, it can also win you the best deal. Read more about the huge difference this has made in rowing here  And take a look at how women’s sport apparel start-up Boudavida has used sponsorship to launch its new range.

(5) Be motivated by what buying or selling media rights can achieve.

There are some differences in what men and women want to watch (Repucom, for example, in their useful report on the subject – – list the top three watched sports for British women as tennis, football and athletics. For men , it’s football tennis and motorsport. But a large part of these differences are a reflection of the amount and type of coverage each sport receive, and the role models or stand-out stars involved. So there’s no reason that, with the right support, netball or rock climbing couldn’t make it to the top of either list. Selling or buying women’s and men’s rights together can increase value, as well as viewing figures and sends a message to your fans and participants. Take a look this story about rugby to see how success and TV coverage can affect participation

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