Why are female fans still being overlooked by brands?
Despite female sport in this country achieving another incredible high in recent weeks, with the success of the women’s Netball team at the Commonwealth Games, it still remains baffling that female sport fans are being overlooked by brands.
Fan culture is, of course, a complex world. Nuanced and hyper local, the brands wanting to get involved need to invest first in getting it right. Much research on fan culture however, focuses exclusively on male supporters and minority issues such as fan violence, leading to a skewed and generalised perception.
Evidence from the FA shows that more women than ever before are attending football matches. The Premier League now states that 25% of all fans (some 3.5 million) watching matches live in England’s top division are female. Additional research suggests that over a third of all new fans – those who started watching football in the past five years – were women, with some teams, such as Leeds United, selling half of new season tickets to female fans.
When it comes to understanding the female fan, there are five important considerations:
1.Team performance is not enough – She will be more practical than her male counterpart. Factors such as customer service and home ground facilities are significantly more important among females. Female fans don’t derive satisfaction from the team and their performance alone – the experience on every level counts.
2. She’ll feel required to ‘prove’ her fan status – She will feel the need to ‘prove’ her status as a ‘real’ fan – usually to male supporters. In her book ‘The Feminization of Sports Fandom’, Stacey Pope refers to a common frustration of female sports fans – the perception that they are ‘inferior’ or ‘inauthentic’, lacking sporting knowledge or not as passionate or committed as men who support the same teams.
3. She’s not an object for desire – She will be battling again a subordinate, sexualised image in media. A quick google search shows how pervasive the female fan stereotype is – an image which barely any genuine female fans relate to or feel represented by.
4. It’s part of their identity – Sport plays as important a role in her life as it does in the lives of male fans. In a Leicester study nearly 85% of football fans and just under half of rugby union fans felt their sport was an important aspect of their identity, to the extent that they would mention their interest on a CV, make a conscious determination to make new acquaintances aware that they are a fan, and invest large amounts of time watching or thinking about sport.
5. Dedicated to the cause – Her relationship with her club will have a significant impact on her life, including her mood and even her relationships. From organising other activities around matches to feeling ‘high’ or ‘low’ following the result of a game. Some women felt so strongly about their club that they could not imagine developing a relationship with a potential partner who didn’t share, or at least accept, their dedication to their club.
If the success of female sports is anything to go by, the number of female sports fans is only set to keep growing, pushing the need for them to be taken seriously by the media and marketing, not least because they hold significant spending power.
With ticket prices continually on the rise, all fans are becoming more middle class. Season tickets are commonly over £500 across the Premier League, and around £1,000 for some London clubs, pushing attendance towards higher socio demographic groups.
A 2016 study by SportsDNA analysed purchase behavior of female sports fans in general, revealing that they are big spenders in a number of categories when compared to female non-sport fans and national female averages.
Where women once were the focus for ‘home-making’ categories like FMCG and brands for children, the female sports fans in particular shows a propensity towards higher value categories such as electronics and automotive and overlooking her importance is a big missed opportunity.
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