With women predicted to control nearly 75 percent of discretionary spending globally by 2028, according to MBA@UNC, an executive MBA program, sports marketers understand the need to pay more attention to the revenue stream that their female fans represent.
That’s why leagues across the industry, including the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, have all pivoted their marketing campaigns to this demographic. That doesn’t mean they’re screen-printing more little pink jerseys. Rather, they are making a serious effort to better understand their female fans and authentically advertise to them.
Here are eight companies that have advertising campaigns based on market research data about female fans and what types of products and services they consume:
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By featuring strong women in their advertising campaign, the company hopes to better connect with female consumers. In 2015, the company made a powerful impact on building on its “Win from Within” tagline with its ad featuring a montage of flashbacks from Serena Williams’ career framing them between intro and closing shots of a reporter interviewing her when she was a young girl. When asked what player she’d like to most emulate as an adult, Williams said: “Well, I’d like other people to be like me.”
As the maker of the NFL’s official beer, Anheuser-Busch created the Bud Light Lime-A-Rita to appeal to female fans. The sweet drink in a faux cocktail package has apparently made an impact since only 30 percent of Bud Light drinkers are women, but they make up 65 percent of those who imbibe in the new female-friendly fare.
For this beer giant, the pivot involved attracting the women who don’t like beer at all by creating a totally new type of drink, Henry’s Hard Sodas. The company says that beer has lost 10 percent of the market share to wine and hard liquor over the last decade, and products like Henry’s Hard Soda are an effort to attract women to make up the gap.
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The sports apparel giant is attempting to increase its share in the lucrative women’s activewear market, a $15 billion a year business, in the U.S. by creating product lines tailored to women of specific age groups. Describing its Adigirl Collection that was introduced in July 2015, Katie Becker, senior director for Adidas Training and Sportswear says, “Adigirl was created to specifically meet the needs of the female teen athlete and provides her with versatile options that can be worn for more than just practice.”
Understanding the need to expand beyond its testosterone-laden image, Under Armour launched its “I Will What I Want” campaign featuring American Ballet Theatre star Misty Copeland. According to one of the architects of the campaign, Leanne Fremar, senior VP and creative director women’s business, the goal was to celebrate women “who had the physical and mental strength to tune out the external pressures and turn inward to chart their own course.” Under Armour’s efforts paid off with their women’s business growing 60 percent year after year and the company being recognized as Ad Age’s 2014 Marketer of the Year.
As the largest retailer of women’s athletic wear, Nike already has a bit of a leg up when it comes to advertising to female consumers. That didn’t stop the company from launching a campaign aimed at women in April 2015 with a video at the MTV Movie Awards introducing their #betterforit advertising campaign. The company says it’s about “powering [women] to be better through services, product innovation and athlete inspiration, motivating each other to push to the next level.”
The insurance giant tapped actress and comedian Mindy Kaling for its 2015 Super Bowl ad “Invisible”, which empathizes with the dissatisfaction that consumers often feel when dealing with other insurance companies. By recruiting the young actress for the spot, Nationwide helped broaden the brand’s appeal to women and Millennials, both of which help to make up Kaling’s 7.3 million Twitter followers.
Verizon zeroed in on women with the Hub it’s all-in-one broadband communication device and surveyed them to gain feedback to help market the product. Survey results helped the company determine which features of the product women were most drawn to, and then strategically focused on those features in their advertising campaigns. The telecommunications giant also made a big impact with its 2014 “Inspire Her Mind” commercial, which portrays the subtle messages that young girls are given which may inhibit their pursuit of STEM professions as they mature.
The Role of "Femvertising"
Although all of these brands have made a pivot to market to women in various ways, some, like Gatorade, Under Armour and Verizon, are specifically making use of an increasingly powerful approach that marketing experts refer to as “femvertising.” Samantha Skey, chief revenue officer of SheKnows, says the technique makes use of “pro-female messaging within advertising,” according to a Huffington Post article. Such ads that shun the objectifying of women and girls and celebrate them instead have become wildly popular. In a survey of 628 women regarding their thoughts about femvertising and how it impacted their purchase decisions:
- 91 percent said that how women are portrayed in advertising has a direct impact on girls’ self-esteem.
- 94 percent agreed that portraying women as sex symbols in advertising is harmful.
- 51 percent supported pro-female ads because they break down gender-equality barriers.
- 71 percent said brands should be responsible for using advertising to promote positive messages to women and girls.
- 52 percent had purchased a product because they liked how women were portrayed in the ads.
In addition, experts agree that companies that are making the most of femvertising need to “walk-the-talk” as well by donating time and funds to programs that support women and girls. Katie Ford, president of Starcom MediaVest, was quoted by the Huffington Post, saying, “People see right through you when you’re not cause-related.”
Such authenticity is also key to ensuring that the right message is relayed. As PR expert Meredith Fineman wrote in a piece for Harvard Business Review,“… while bringing feminist issues to the forefront of our culture is unarguably positive, it can also carry significant risk if you are doing it on behalf of a corporate brand. If your brand isn’t genuine about it or doesn’t understand the nuances behind the issues, attempts to co-opt feminism will backfire; coming across as tone deaf is never good marketing.”