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Opinion | How social media data drives investor confidence for women in sport

Kore Software, the official data partner of SportsPro, recently conducted an analysis of the state of female athletes across social media. The trends we’ll talk through are shaping human behaviour, connection and ultimately investment strategy in sports partnerships for years to come.

The enigma of women in sport

Access to and investment in sport for women is a highly sensitive and personal topic for many, with speculation and puzzlement continuing over the lack of investment needed to help women’s sport and female athletes reach their full potential. Today, there’s never been a better time to get involved in the massive growth focused on women.

Let’s take a look at a round-up of big data highlights on women in sports from the last 12 years:

  • A media study in LA county on ESPN and its local affiliates in 2010 uncovered that 1.4 per cent of SportsCenter coverage and 6 per cent of the local networks’ coverage focused on women’s sports.
  • As recently as 2019, about 95 per cent of total television coverage as well as the ESPN highlights show SportsCenter focused on men’s sports.
  • The 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup pulled in 1.12 billion viewers, which is 31 per cent of the 3.57 billion viewers for the men’s edition in 2018.
  • The Women’s World Cup prize pot doubled in 2019, and it will double again to US$60 million for the 2023 tournament, which comes to 7.5 per cent of the US$440 million prize pot for the next men’s World Cup.
  • More than 500,000 tickets have been sold for Uefa Women’s Euro 2022, with matches selling out in less than 24 hours and over 90,000 set to be in attendance for the final at Wembley Stadium.
  • The WNBA’s 2022 draft averaged 403,000 viewers, or 20 per cent more than last year.
  • Currently, women’s sports are growing at over double the rate of men’s sports on social media.

Let’s focus on the last bullet point for a moment. Why talk about viewership along with social media? Because of the investment value of social engagement.

Investing in women in sport is a clear bet and it has gained momentum faster than ever due to social media, not sports coverage. According to our very own Kore analysis* of more than 1.4 million social media posts and 27 billion fan interactions, analysed between 1st June 2021 and 1st June 2022, engagement for women in sport is growing nearly five times faster than men’s over the past 12 months.

We’ve identified which female athletes, leagues and events are driving the adjusted ad value (AAV) into the millions for a single post. You might be surprised to find that it’s mostly athletes that fall under high-growth sports, versus traditional.

Who’s creating the value?

Simply put, based on our data, it’s the female athletes who accounted for 95 per cent of the posts tracked.

These athletes are able to tell their stories in a way that they couldn’t ten years ago. We no longer need to wait for traditional Olympic coverage or production timelines on journalistic documentaries to see super-interesting stories about how these females came to be, grow, train, and live their lives.

Social media allows fans to engage with and to celebrate the individual competitor, instantly. They can have real conversations about what’s going on in their life. Fans want to hear about the full athlete. What kind of bed do you sleep on? What do you eat for breakfast?

Now athletes can drive their own human brand and connect through their brand partners authentically, rather than leaving brands to write the sponsor-partner narrative for the athlete.

Let’s talk about the value of TikTok

Our Kore solution can help you understand how AAV is determined. If you’re wondering which types of social media content are clicking with the most value – whether it be quick, authentic, off-the-cuff, or clearly planned production – our data doesn’t clearly account for that. It’s most likely a mixture across channels. But here’s some thinking juice.

Think about your daily life for a moment. Those obscure moments at home, on holiday or with your partner, friend, or family member who gets a laugh out of you. Maybe it’s something the dog did, a story, or inspiring an ad hoc dance or impersonation. Whatever it is, it’s probably spontaneous or they took moments to plan. Well, that’s generally the nature of weekly viral trends or even “planned” content on TikTok, unlike Instagram which has evolved into a channel with much higher production time and cost.   

As of April, 80 per cent of TikTok users are 16 to 34 years old, and 60 per cent fall within the 16-24 year old range (8). Our Kore analysis found that less than five per cent of the posts by women in sport were made to TikTok and YouTube, yet over two-thirds of fan engagement occurred on these two platforms.

Creating confidence with social data

Exactly why the investment dollars for women in sport still haven’t reached potential could be widely speculated, but one thing is clear from the social data: growth is gaining momentum faster than ever.

In a recent conversation Allison Howard, president of the Kansas City Current soccer team, explained that, in today’s market, securing investment ultimately comes down to asking confidently. She believes that most pitching on behalf of women in sport doesn’t present the numbers or data well, which only weakens the argument for greater investment.

The most successful brands are finding ways to harness social data to make smarter decisions. It’s critical to know how impactful a single influencer is, to track their influence, understand the stats quickly and know what content to push and when. Being fully vested in and knowledgeable about your data and insights will help you confidently pitch for and secure investment.

Learn how Kore’s solution can help you understand the impact and value of an athlete’s post with our 2022 Sponsorship ROI white paper. See more insights on women in sport and the top brands being promoted across social in our recent webinar or book a demo to see our solution in action. 

* Social posts analysed were published between 1st June 2021 and 1st June 2022, a period that covered two Olympic Games. More than 8,000 women’s sport organisations and female athletes, fitness influencers and gamers were tracked on platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Twitter, VK, Weibo and YouTube. Social media data includes followers, posts, engagement and valuation data.

This feature forms part of SportsPro’s Women’s Sport Week, a week of coverage dedicated to the industry’s next great growth opportunity and co-hosted by Two Circles. Click here to access more exclusive content and sign up to the SportsPro Daily newsletter here to receive daily insights direct to your inbox.

To find out more about SportsPro’s future themed weeks, click here. 

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