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New study shows untapped potential of women’s sports

Craig Mitchelldyer/ISI Photos

The Sports Innovation Lab, a market research and fan intelligence company, has released the findings from its new data initiative, “The Fan Project.”

The project used data directly from fans — including 10 million data points from social files and 10 billion TV viewership data points — to better understand the business potential of women’s sports.

Here are some of the key findings of the report:

Fans are drawn to athlete stories.

  • Nearly two thirds (62 percent) of viewership spikes during the WNBA bubble season were driven by storytelling content that had nothing to do with stats, scores or schedules.
  • Fans of Women’s Sports (FoWS) are engaging with athlete-driven media around global events 12 times as much over the last five years.

If you build it, they will come.

  • In 2020, the NWSL made its content both interactive and accessible through partnerships with CBS Sports and Twitch. The result was a 476 percent year-over-year increase in viewership and more than 60 million minutes viewed on Twitch, when almost every men’s league saw double-digit declines in viewership.
  • More than 50 percent of women’s sports fans analyzed engaged in some form of digital co-watching behavior.

Women’s sports are lucrative.

  • Following the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s fourth World Cup title in 2019, Nike saw a 500 percent increase in jersey sales.
  • Zoomph found NWSL fans were 2.5 times more loyal to Nike following their sponsorship of the league, and WNBA fans were 3.4 times more loyal.

Moral of the story: It’s good business to invest in women’s sports.