The lack of visibility of women and girls in sports might surprise you: According to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, women’s sports in the United States only receive around four percent of all sports media coverage. Because of this, SeeHer plans to increase coverage accurate portrayal of women and girls to 20 percent by 2020, as a way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.
Even more alarming: According to SeeHer, 84 percent of sports fans have an interest in female sports, but only 1 percent of sponsorship dollars funnel into this segment. It’s no surprise that that media outlets don’t publicize women’s sports more; outlets don’t want to “risk” creating space for an industry that is “less popular.” Advertisers and brands, however, have to set a precedent for change — and create an interest that welcomes new fans and allows already engaged fans to more easily find news on games and athletes.
As Shelley Zalis, Co-Founder of SeeHer and CEO of The Female Quotient, stated, “Adding more women is a return on equality. It takes each and everyone one of us. We are all necessary in this conversation.” It’s about taking the first step to create a return on equality, not just investment and revenue: If advertisers truly want to bring visibility to women in sports, just do it. All brands, like people, are unified by gender equality — and disconnected by the same inequalities that exist right now.
Here are some actionable steps all brands can take to create true change and accountability:
Accountability happens through measurement and data. This is why Gender Equality measure (GEM) was created in 2016 as a data-driven methodology that identifies unconscious bias in advertising and programming, which helps marketers increase ROI while also promoting progressive change. It works by quantifying consumer reactions to portrayals of women in ads (and can measure up to two minutes of highlight reel, for instance), and has been used in thousands of ads in 14 countries all over the world since its launch to close the gap. You can’t grow and learn if you don’t measure.
Hire more women in front of the camera and behind the camera. Having more women in decision-making roles, while also training male employees to understand how to spot inequalities and foster inclusion, creates change from within. This can happen across professional disciplines from the creative team to hiring managers. To help motivate change, male and female employees need to be asked, “What do you want to be known for? What’s your legacy?”
Allocate media spend for women in advertising. Create the demand, and develop a budget for the demand. The more an audience sees a network celebrating and highlighting women in sports, for instance, the more people will watch — and the more that women in sports will be normalized. Gender equality is social and economical, so marketers need to create and establish value. Brands can’t change the media coverage of the past, but marketers can control the narrative moving forward.
Instead of just focusing on revenue, focus on the “return on impact” culturally, confidence, and awareness. Redefine KPIs that aren’t just about the dollars, but about how women and girls perceive themselves and each other — and how men perceive the capabilities and abilities of women.
Diversify the gatekeepers. A true champion is someone who champions others, regardless of who the champion is — or what his or her background is. Include more women and people from multicultural backgrounds.
Create inclusion riders in contracts for female athletes, influencers, and public figures that promises inclusivity. Inclusivity can, and should, range from PR support to the production team to the athletes themselves. Who a brand works with not only sets a precedent but illustrates what the brand stands for.
Conduct diversity surveys within your company. It’s important to understand the percentage of women on a company’s board, within a company’s creative team, and out of that percentage, how many team members include women from multicultural backgrounds. Analyzing a company’s marketing and promotion spend solely focused on women and girls can highlight weaknesses and gaps, and how to bridge these gaps.
Demand change. If we as consumers demand that we will consume women’s sports, this will quickly change the industry. On the league side, use your powerful platforms to distribute messages.
Don’t only focus on women’s sports, or women’s issues or interests, when there’s conflict. Bring women up as inspirational, challenging, and well-rounded people, just as men are. Normalize the coverage, so “women’s sports” isn’t just a special interest, but an interest of everyone.
Men need to talk about women’s sports (and women’s accomplishments). As a way to normalize and draw attention to women’s sports, it has to be talked about by everyone with as much excitement as men’s sports and interests. Women’s interests are everyone’s interests—and gender equality is equality for everyone.
Set a goal to increase women’s coverage within your company. As SeeHer set its 2020 goal, all companies can set a goal to increase coverage and budget; creating smaller incremental steps can be an easier and actionable way to create change. To do this, establish a measurement score to track progress and set goals.
Source: “How Your Brand Can Really Promote Women.” ANA, 2019.
The following is republished with the permission of the Association of National Advertisers. Find this and similar articles on ANA Newsstand.