Breaking Barriers: How innovation will change the Game for Women’s sports sponsorship

In continuation to our last article, the global sponsorship industry has seen significant growth and change, owing in part to the rise of digital media and the growing importance of brand purpose and social impact. One emerging trend is an increased interest in sponsoring sports and events that promote sustainability, diversity, and social causes. This trend has resulted in a greater emphasis on purpose-driven sponsorship, in which businesses seek to align their sponsorship efforts with their values and mission.

There has been a positive trend towards increased investment and support for women’s sports sponsorship. According to Just Women’s Sports, Women’s sports is projected to be a $200 billion global industry in the next decade. This will surely include more sponsorship investment in women’s sports. In recent years, more companies have sponsored women’s sports teams and athletes, and there has been more media coverage of women’s sports events. This has been fueled in part by the success and popularity of women’s sports, as well as a growing awareness of the importance of promoting gender equality and inclusivity in sports.

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Despite this advancement, women’s sports sponsorship continues to lag behind men’s sports sponsorship in terms of investment and coverage. Women’s sports teams and athletes are frequently underfunded and underserved in the media, making it difficult for them to reach their full potential. The year 2022-23 did start a game-changing era in the sponsorship in sports with women’s sports consistently breaking records in viewerships and sponsorships. There is still much room for improvement in this area, and more businesses and organizations must step forward to support women’s sports and promote gender equality in sports.


  1. “The Global Sponsorship Landscape” by Nielsen Sports
  2. “The State of Women’s Sports in 2021” by Forbes
  3. “Women’s Sports Get Boost From Sponsors, Fans And Media” by NPR

Trend 1: Purpose-driven sponsorship

One major trend emerging in the PR world, that directly translates to an increase in investment in women’s sports is called: ‘Purpose-driven Sponsorship’ 

Purpose-driven sponsorship’ is a type of sponsorship that prioritizes promoting a social cause over financial benefits. It enables businesses to demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility and strengthen customer relationships. The trend is gaining traction due to the growing importance of brand purpose and social impact, as well as the rise of digital media. 

Companies are increasingly seeking to sponsor sports and events that promote sustainability, diversity, and social causes to engage consumers who share similar values. This trend is leading to an increase in investment in women’s sports.

ACFC’s entry into NWSL and its purpose-driven sponsorship strategy

Angel City FC, a new women’s soccer team in Los Angeles with star-studded ownership, aims to break sponsorship records by prioritizing purpose-driven partnerships with businesses that share their values of diversity and inclusion. The team’s high-profile sponsors include the Los Angeles Dodgers and Secret Deodorant, and they have partnered with the LA84 Foundation to promote youth sports participation.

Angel City FC’s focus on purpose-driven sponsorship highlights the increasing interest in aligning sponsorship efforts with values and mission to strengthen customer connections and promote positive change. The team’s commitment to creating a welcoming environment for all fans, regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation, is a testament to their dedication to promoting gender equality in sports. 

Overall, Angel City FC’s approach to sponsorship demonstrates the power of purpose-driven partnerships and their potential to make a real impact in the sponsorship industry by putting diversity and inclusion first. 

Saudi Arabia’s Withdrawal as a Sponsor from the Women’s Fifa World Cup

Despite being considered as a potential sponsor, the Saudi tourist authority, Visit Saudi, has decided not to sponsor the 2018 FIFA Women’s World Cup, emphasizing the necessity of matching sponsorship activities with principles and objectives. The decision comes after athletes and federations expressed concerns that the sponsorship would not fully line with their objectives.

While FIFA President Gianni Infantino has not ruled out future opportunities for Saudi Arabia in women’s football, his remarks highlight the need of monitoring the potential blowback from purpose-driven relationships. Infantino claims that the question of sponsorship is a double standard because economic arrangements have already been made between corporations in Saudi Arabia and Australia. Yet, the controversy over Visit Saudi’s possible sponsorship highlights the growing relevance of purpose-driven collaborations and the need for firms to thoroughly assess potential partners’ values and goals before engaging in sponsorship agreements.

Trend 2: Digital and social media

Companies now leverage social media and digital activations, including influencer marketing, as part of their sponsorship plans. Women’s sports can benefit from increased visibility and fan base as a result of this. Social media allows them to showcase their talent and interact with fans. Data analytics can aid in audience comprehension and money generation. 

Fluid Fans (Sports innovation lab)- The new era of fandom

The Sports Innovation Lab, a market research firm powered by technology, has introduced the idea of “fluid fans,” a new generation of fans who are influenced by technology and shifting consumer habits. Fluid fans seek out experiences that align with their interests and preferences rather than being tied to a particular team or sport. The proliferation of esports and gaming, the rise of digital content, and the growing significance of social causes and values in sports are all contributing to the rise of fluid fans. 

Fluid fans are known for their adaptability and willingness to try new things. They are more likely to watch games on their smartphones, interact with teams and players on social media, and seek out experiences other than sports. They likewise will quite often focus on encounters that line up with their qualities, like maintainability, variety, and social effect.

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According to the Sports Innovation Lab, fluid fans represent a significant opportunity for the sports industry because they are more open to trying new things and more likely to spend money on products and services related to sports. The fluid industry must embrace technology and innovation in order to engage fluid fans and provide experiences that match their interests and preferences. By embracing this new era of fandom, the sports industry can create new opportunities for growth and engagement, and connect with fans in new and innovative ways.

To cite an example, Sam Kerr (an Australian Football player) exemplifies how modern fans interact with their favorite athletes. Fluid fans are those that are less devoted to clubs and more interested in individual players, and Kerr is a good example of an athlete who has established a fluid-fan base based on her own talent and personality.

She is a prime example of the fluid fans concept. She has built a strong social media presence, which has helped her connect with fans who feel like they know her personally and are invested in her success. Kerr’s vocal support for issues such as gender equality and LGBTQ rights has also helped her connect with fans who share her values and has given her a platform to raise awareness about important issues. As more athletes build personal brands and connect with fans directly, the relationship between fans and teams is likely to continue to evolve, with individual players taking on a larger role in fan engagement.


  1. “The Fluid Fan: Understanding the Changing Landscape of Sports Consumption” by Sports Innovation Lab
  2. “The Rise of the Fluid Fan: A New Era of Sports Fandom” by Forbes

Trend 3: Prioritizing ROI 

The world of sports sponsorship is fast changing, with businesses now seeking greater accountability and return on investment. According to Nielsen Sports research, there is an increasing emphasis on data analytics and measurement to assist companies in better understanding the value and impact of their sponsorships.

In 2020, the sports sponsorship industry was worth $57 billion, and it is predicted to grow to $90 billion by 2027. Sports sponsorship revenue is highest in the financial services, technology, and automotive industries.

Having laid down the context, data analytics is increasingly getting used in the sports industry to gain a competitive edge in the brand and the overall game as well. Below is one instance of the same:

Relo Metrics <> WSL Clubs

It was in 2020 when the Sports innovation lab’s report defined overall sports sponsorship as ‘All the Glitz None of the Data’. During that time women’s sports sponsorship was not even in the air. Fast-forward to 2023, when we are entering into the era of AI and sports bodies are still struggling with a data-driven approach, it’s high time to understand what data is trying to say and capitalize on it. If women’s sports capitalize on this during its nascent stage then imagine where it will be in the next decade. Digital agility is the future and the one who adopts it now will be the winner in the coming years. Even though there is a prolonged development in this area there is an advancement in this area by a company called Relo Metrics.

Talking about the increased focus on data analytics, Relo Metrics, a prominent AI-powered sports sponsorship analytics intelligence platform, has worked with several Women’s Super League (WSL) clubs in the United Kingdom to improve the quality of women’s football by leveraging its real-time data and performance monitoring tools. Relo Metrics assists coaches and players in making data-driven decisions that can improve team performance on the pitch by providing WSL teams with advanced analytics and real-time data on player movement and performance. In addition, the firm provides injury prevention statistics and tactical analysis to help WSL clubs discover areas for development and build tailored training programs that can reduce the chance of injuries.

The English Football Association is supporting an effort that showcases the growing importance of data-driven decision-making in sports, especially at the highest level. Relo Metrics is working with WSL clubs to provide cutting-edge technology to improve athlete performance and team competitiveness, empowering coaches and players with sophisticated analytics tools. This could lead to improved outcomes and more global attention for women’s football in the UK and globally. 

Trend 4: Bundling and unbundling of sponsorship

Women’s sports in the past and even in the present have received sponsorship majorly bundled along with the men’s team. If we talk about commercial rights, then historically women’s teams were tied with men’s teams. Broadcasting rights and naming rights are still bundled today.

There has been a recent development in this area too. A Nielsen study published in 2022 found that unbundled sponsorship investment in women’s sports increased by around 146% in 2021, year on year

The same report highlights the increasing engagement of fans and their changing behavior and consumption patterns. The most significant key highlight is that fans are willing to pay for personalized experiences, with 69% of sports fans willing to pay for customized content, which in a way is a form of sponsorship through revenue. 

A recent example is- Ally Financial is intent on being a brand that invests in women’s sports. Ally’s new sponsorship deal with ESPN and Disney funnels 90% of its overall investment into women’s sports with a five-year goal of splitting its sports advertising equally between men’s and women’s sports. The financial company is the first title sponsor of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament and will also create a custom content series with ESPN centered around highlighting women in sports.

Broader implication on women’s sports

The majority of the cutting-edge trends and game-changing advancements described above are intricately linked to state-of-the-art technology, and we firmly believe that technology will play a pivotal role in the metamorphosis of the global women’s sports sponsorship landscape. As per the latest insights from SportsPro Media, a meager 7% of the whopping $30 billion earmarked for sponsorships worldwide is currently channeled towards promoting female athletes. 

However, with the advent of innovative technologies like big data analytics and machine learning algorithms for calculating Return on Investment (ROI) for sponsors, we are confident that this statistic will undergo a paradigm shift in the years to come.

The key to progress in women’s sports lies in embracing technology. This powerful tool enables sports clubs, leagues, and sponsors to stay ahead of the competition and maintain a steady stream of revenue. Those that grasp the importance of technology early on will be the trailblazers of the future. The business of women’s sports is already starting to follow the concepts of moneyball.

Prepare for a game-changing revolution in women’s sports! Our next articles will dive into the unrivaled impact of adopting cutting-edge technologies, and how it may propel women’s sports to new heights of success. By implementing these game-changing improvements at the business level, sports organizations can ensure their unrivaled domination in the business.

We are always open to learning and feedback for our love of writing and sports, and for the same please do reach out to us! 

Aman Ratnam
Btech (India), MBA (IIM Udaipur, India)

Ekta Sharma
Btech (India), MSc Sports Business (Sheffield Hallam, UK)

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