By Jennifer Davis, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Learfield
Winning championships takes teamwork. This is as true on the softball diamond or basketball court as it is in every aspect of life and business. This theme of teamwork is prominent in Learfield’s approach to the celebration of Title IX and as we look ahead to the growth and potential of women’s college athletics.
As you know, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities, passed in June 1972, set forth opportunities for women in athletics and opened new doors. Before Title IX, there were no scholarships, championships, and little to no facilities and funds for female college athletes. The lack of fairness and equity required change which began 50 years ago this year and continues with efforts across the industry – impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of athletes every year.
Playing college sports transforms lives, as we hear from current student-athletes and alumni, including our own employees at Learfield. It teaches not only teamwork, but grit, tenacity, coachability, and a host of leadership lessons. It creates opportunities for a college education and leadership development that might otherwise be inaccessible were it not for the more than $3.6B given athletics scholarships. I know my own experience in team sports helped shape me as a competitor and contributor, giving me skills and confidence. It helps me better appreciate what female college athletes have accomplished!
Since Title IX, female college athletes have gone on to rule FIFA World Cups, medal at Olympic games, and garner some of the fastest growing audiences at NCAA championships. And back on campuses, women have led the way in the dynamic environment of intercollegiate athletics around name, image, and likeness. According to Opendorse, women make up a significant portion of the top social media followings among student-athletes, with three of the top five grossing college sports in name, image and likeness (NIL) are women’s. We all remember how basketball players Haley and Hanna Cavinder were among the first to sign NIL deals on the first day it was allowed. In recent months, softball stars Maya Brady and Montana Fouts have made waves with deals ahead of the NCAA Women’s College World Series. From our analysis of COMPASS NIL compliance data, we know that women’s gymnasts have some of the highest average NIL deals in all of college athletics. And beyond the field of play and the emerging opportunities for brand building, female collegiate athletes have gone on to lead companies, teams, and movements.
Further, women have unmatched influential power over the economy. In first-party research, we know female fans represent 42% of the college sports audience – a statistic that some have found surprising as sports fans had been thought to be dominated by men. The percentages can be even higher for women’s athletic teams. Women influence 85% of all consumer spending and female college sports fans are one of the most educated and highest income demographic of consumers making them an attractive audience to brands. Understanding and unlocking the potential of the female fan at a detailed level is critically important for schools and brands looking to optimize their marketing efforts. In response, Learfield has built Fanbase, the largest data and analytics platform in college athletics. As we follow the NCAA Women’s College World Series, I challenge all to take note of the women supporting these incredible players and following each contest, as they represent opportunities for brands.
At Learfield, we take teamwork to the market as well, partnering with organizations with a shared commitment. Recently, we have renewed our partnership with Women Leaders in College Sports – the premier leadership organization that develops, connects, and advances women working in college sports and beyond. Women Leaders takes a proactive role in advancing women into positions of influence and powerfully shapes the landscape of women leaders in the college space. We look forward to their national convention and work throughout the year to educate and advance women in the sports industry. We are proud to have had women leaders at Learfield recognized by Sports Business Journal with Game Changers awards representing our contribution.
We are both proud of the diversity we are building within our organization and in the industry and unsatisfied with the progress. We have more to do together!
We have so much more to accomplish as women in sports and in leadership, and college sports have proven a perfect training ground for both. We have the power to innovate and change the landscape of the sports industry and we invite you to join us in advocating for the power of the female fan and the female student-athlete!
Want to know more? Download the Intercollegiate Fan Pulse Report: Empowering the Influence of the Female Fan at learfield.com/femalefans/.