Levelling the Sponsorship Playing Field

Anna Edwards Sky Sports News Producer of ‘Sportswomen’
Anna Edwards
Sky Sports News Producer of ‘Sportswomen’

Anna Edwards, Sky Sports News Producer of ‘Sportswomen’ and WST guest blogger.

We welcomed Sophie Goldschmidt onto the Sportswomen programme this week. Currently at the RFU as the Commercial Director, Goldschmidt has an incredible CV for a women working in the sports industry.

“I’ve been very fortunate through-out my career – I’ve had some fantastic, really interesting roles. I started out at Adidas working in sports marketing across both tennis and football. From there, I went to the WTA and I was there at a really interesting time when a lot of the ground-breaking changes were made. From there I went to the NBA – was based in the US and then managed their International business based out of London. Now I am at the RFU as the Chief Commercial Officer looking after all the commercial revenue side of Rugby but also marketing and digital communications which is a really exciting role – especially leading up to a World Cup in 2015.”

Vicky and Sophie Goldschmidt
Vicky and Sophie Goldschmidt

Well placed then to have her say on why women have just 0.4% share of the global sponsorship market – our theme of the week.

“It does sound alarmingly low. But what I would say is I think huge strides are being taken. Now having worked in women’s sport and sport in general for over a decade I’ve seen huge steps forward and I think the gap is getting smaller. But there’s clearly still a long way to go. I think it also varies a lot depending on the sport. Again, if you look at women’s tennis, professional golf and those much further along in the life cycle – the gap is much smaller. But a lot of sports from a women’s perspective are relatively new. And aren’t even professionally full time yet. So, I think we’re taking strides forward but clearly there needs to be more focus and more can be done across a variety of areas.”

So who should be responsible for increasing the commercial side of women’s sport? Well we ran a Sportswomen poll with the majority of viewers telling us Governing Bodies should be doing more to boost women’s sports sponsorship:

Who should be responsible for increasing women’s sports sponsorship?

A. Governing Bodies 37%
B. Individual Athletes 15%
C. Brands 14%
D. Media 25%
E. Government 8%
Steve Martin, CEO of M&C Saatchi whose clients include O2, Coca-Cola, Taylormade and Reebok agrees with the Sportswomen viewers.

“Brands aren’t sitting there turning off from women’s sport – their ears are open. You’ve got to look back at the governing bodies of these sports, the federations and the rights holders as well to start opening up these sports even more. Start being really proactive. Start investing in PR and social media strategies instead of expecting the media to just turn up and cover their event.”

Women’s tennis is a really interesting case study for the sponsorship debate. Maria Sharapova tops the Forbes list of highest paid sportswomen with $29million of annual earnings in 2013. Serena Williams, Li Na and Victoria Azarenka make up the top four. In the late nineties, Anna Kournikova was at the height of her fame earning huge money from endorsements and deals. In 2002 she earned $10 million from endorsements alone. Staggering for someone who never won a career singles title. Martin explains that looks play an important part when it comes to sportswomen winning deals.

“It does come into it and I think everyone is quite naïve if they try to ignore that and it happens in any walk of life. I don’t think Anna Kournikova would be as popular now as she was then because I think people are a bit more savvy.”

Tennis may be an exceptional sport when it comes to women’s sponsorship, but how important do market forces play and are UK based athletes suffering because of the UK’s place in this global market? Goldschmidt thinks so.

“The US as a country is very different to Europe and the UK. It’s much bigger so the numbers are bigger because of that and there is more money to invest. I think also, it’s a much more mature market from a sports perspective and that’s across men’s sports as well. Professionalism has been much more advanced there with much more money across the board. I think an important legislative introduction was Title IX which was introduced back in the 1970’s really pioneered by Billie Jean King and some other real role models for women’s sport that accelerated the growth. Now, as much money has to be invested into college sports for women as men. College sports are a real driver over there. The markets are very different and it’s very hard to compare them.”

Elsewhere on the programme we were live with Shelley Kerr to preview the huge Champions League tie between Birmingham and Arsenal in the quarter-finals. Another busy news wrap full of women’s successes including Charley Hull winning her first Tour title at just seventeen and Jade Etherington with her guide Caroline Powell returning from Sochi as Britons first winners of four medals at a Winter Paralympics.

If you missed the programme you can catch up On Demand. We’re repeated Thursday night at 7pm on Sky Sports 3 and on Sunday at 9am on Sky Living.

Sportswomen – Live every Tuesday at 1030, Sky Sports News.

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