Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Marketing of a Female Sports Fan

By Kristen Seabolt

With the official kick-off of the NFL season tonight at 8 p.m. EST when the Saints and Packers face off, I thought it fitting to discuss the growing popularity of football (and sports in general) among a growing market…women.

I consider myself to be a knowledgeable female sports fan. I have played soccer since I was five, watched the Orioles since back when they were a decent team, and have supported the Ravens since they came to Baltimore. However, until recently, I was one of the few people in my group of personal friends who knew the difference between a cornerback and a running back. Now, I know many female fans who know more than most men do.

Over the past decade, women have broken into the billion dollar sports industry that has long been dominated by men, and they are here to stay. Professional sports teams and league organizations alike have picked up on this growing trend, and have altered their marketing tactics to include this new audience. In the NFL for example, more than 40% of fans are female, so why wouldn’t teams and league offices want to draw their attention…and their wallets?

Of the 32 teams in the NFL, several offer exclusive clubs or promotions to their female fan base. The Washington Redskins recently launched “WOW,” the Women of Washington Redskins club. The Baltimore Ravens offer the “Purple Club,” and every year host a “Purple Evening” meet & greet with the Ravens players and coaches for women only. Last season, the Green Bay Packers offered a “Football 101 NFL Workshop for Women” for females to come out to the field and learn the rules and plays of the game.

The NFL as a league also boasts a growing female merchandise section of their online NFL Shop, featuring everything from pink jerseys and earrings to bras and underwear. Actress Alyssa Milano’s Touch collection, hosted on, has seen a 40% increase in sales over the past five years.

And no one can forget that month of the season when, across the league, players sport pink cleats and arm bands in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. In addition, women’s clothing stores such as Victoria’s Secret, Motherhood Maternity, Kohl’s and Macy’s all sell licensed female merchandise. And it isn’t just the NFL that has geared their marketing toward women. Both the MLB and NHL offer female clubs and promotions. Earlier this season, the Philadelphia Phillies hosted a “Baseball 101” for female fans who want to learn the game, and the Washington Capitals have a very active “Washington Scarlets” club that frequently meets and attends games together. Lastly, and very recently, ESPN launched ESPN W, a website geared specifically for female fans talking both male and female sports.

The need to market to the female fan is clear, whether it be to make them happy or just to make money - and overall, I think they have done a good job so far. As we welcome football back tonight, notice the number of females in the stands with painted faces and ridiculous costumes chanting with the rest of them for their favorite team.

Kristen Seabolt is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR.  Contact her at

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