Banyana Banyana. Picture: DOMINIC PREUSS
Banyana Banyana. Picture: DOMINIC PREUSS

Women’s sport is no longer considered the poor relative of its male counterpart. Globally there has been a notable increase in the time and attention given to women’s sport – and while SA still has a way to go in this regard, we’re certainly on the right trajectory.

There has been significant coverage given to local women’s sporting codes recently. Long-time Proteas sponsor Momentum has extended its sponsorship to include the women’s Proteas team, which reached the semifinals of the International Cricket Council’s Women’s World Cup last year. Each player on the team has now been contracted to Cricket SA.

Momentum is not the only local company that’s in on the action. Sasol has been a sponsor of the national women’s soccer team, Banyana Banyana, since before women’s sport achieved its current popularity. Banyana Banyana was last year voted the Women’s National Team of the Year at the Aiteo Confederation of African Football Awards in Accra, Ghana.

“A number of other brands have been involved in the sponsorship of women’s sport, including Spar, Totalsports and Brutal Fruit,” says Clint Paterson, of sport and entertainment marketing agency Levergy.

“Building on the narrative around women’s sport, we’re seeing publications that are traditionally associated with men featuring female sports stars. A case in point is Rugby World magazine, which recently [featured] a female player on its cover for the first time in the history of the publication,” says Paterson.

Women’s sports sponsorship opens a world of opportunity to brands. The increased media and attention women’s sport is receiving has resulted in panel discussions and conferences that highlight these opportunities, he says, and now is the time for brands to capitalise on the trend and get involved.

And while not every woman dreams of becoming SA’s next female rugby forward, sponsorship allows brands to connect with women at passion points in their own spaces, and tap into the trend of healthier living and the growing power of the female market.

“The Totalsports Women’s Race is a great example. Totalsports has created a sponsored a race that is targeted at females and [aims to raise awareness about] breast cancer … and it takes place on Women’s Day,” says Paterson, adding that supermarket chain Spar has also been involved in the sponsorship of women’s races.

Brands need to rethink the metrics they use when deciding to enter into sports sponsorships, and find platforms that create a story around empowerment and equality, tailoring specific events to reach a broad cross-section of women. Paterson quotes Nielsen Sports research around participation in sporting events: while barriers to participation for men include age, distance and physical fitness, for women, they include embarrassment and fear of failure.

“This is an ideal place for brands to create event platforms for women that address these fears,” he says. This means companies should approaching sponsorship in more creative ways, as women’s sport is unlikely to deliver traditional metrics.

Paterson cautions that companies should not adopt a “corporate social investment mind-set” when it comes to sponsoring women’s sports.  “It’s not something that is said outwardly, but often that’s how these sponsorships are perceived. Brands need to take an authentic and empowering approach if these sponsorships are to work. After all, the sport is the same, regardless of whether it is played by a male or female, as is the amount of commitment, training, passion and dedication.”

The big take-out:

Women’s sport is growing in popularity and so is its commercial sponsorship viability. Tapping into this opportunity is a way to connect with women in their own spaces – but it takes a creative and authentic approach.