Support for women’s sport is paying off – why now?

2019 has been a momentous year for women’s sport and 2020 is looking even brighter. Our CEO Tamara Gillan explores the rise in support for women’s sport and why it’s paying off now.

2019 has been a momentous year for women’s sport and 2020 is looking even brighter with the news of a new three-year partnership between Barclays and Women in Football where Barclays will expand its role as Lead Partner of the professional women’s network.[1] Barclays is already transforming the game from a grassroots level with the FA Girls’ Football School Partnerships and for the last 6 months, they have also sponsored the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. This support resulted in 100% positive sentiment for Barclays with 263 pieces of media coverage with a total reach of 242 Million.[2]


This year marked a turning point in terms of mass support for women’s sport. The excitement surrounding the 2019 Women’s World Cup meant that Nike’s USA women’s home jersey became the number-one-selling football jersey, men’s or women’s, ever sold on in one season[3]. Nike partially attributed a 7% increase in quarterly revenues to its investment in the tournament[4]. The brand’s apparel revenue from the 2019 Women’s World Cup was four times bigger than it was for the 2015 event[5]. Which begs the question why is the support paying off now?


It’s because the Nike campaign was less like an advertisement and more like a movement for change. An authentic and inspirational message of equality that reflects their long-standing commitment to addressing the out-dated attitudes towards women in sport. Nike brilliantly shines a spotlight on female athletes who are inspiring role models. The Nike Dream Crazier video features change agents such as Serena Williams, who has been a vocal advocate to close the gender pay gap in tennis and Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics.


Sports fans have always known that having a team isn’t about glory it’s about a deep commitment. There is loyalty, shared dreams and honour and this type of commitment is evident in the best examples of brand sponsorships of female sports teams. Such as Investec who has been a long-standing principal partner supporting Great Britain and England Hockey. This partnership has seen women’s hockey scale new heights. With medals at several major championships plus an increase in junior girls club players and growth across other age groups. [6]


Behind this increasing appreciation of the potential for women’s sport is the grit and determination of organisations who have been tirelessly campaigning for investment in women’s sport to help address shocking inequalities, such as the statistic that only 8% of girls are meeting recommended exercise guidelines. [7] At Cherry London we worked with Sport England on the multi-award-winning programme to change young women’s perception and support the creation of sporting habits for life. This resulted in an 80% increase in participation with 1.3 million engaged and 96% of the girls stated that they felt more positive about sport.


It seems the answer to why now is the accumulative effect. The amazing athletes like Megan Rapinoe using their platform to challenge, an agenda for change, endorsement, sponsorship, and exposure are all intrinsically linked and responsible for driving female sport forward. Collectively smashing the long-held belief that men’s sport is more important and ultimately more valuable.


The good news is that Women’s sports sponsorships are growing; between 2013-2017 there was a 37% increase in the annual number of women’s sports sponsorship deals with a 49% increase in average monetary size of deal[8]. But this is still only a fraction of the sponsorship that male sports receive.


Promoting equality in the treatment of female athletes is not only right at a societal level but it delivers ROI. As women drive 70 to 80% of all consumer purchases[9] it makes a watertight case for the commercial opportunities for brands to focus their efforts on women’s sports. It’s a no brainer. Use your influence for good, as we need more female role models and leaders in sport. In the words of Nike: “Can you be the generation that ends gender inequality?”[10]










[8] Nielson Sports The Rise of Women’s Sports: Identifying and Maximizing the opportunity. 2018.


[10] Nike ‘Dream With Us’

by Tamara Gillan

CEO of Cherry London and Founder of The WealthiHer Network