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Social media has become an integral part of a professional athlete's career and female athletes seem to possess some of the larger followings, giving them strong influence. Not only can this help the individual athlete but it can be a powerful tool in highlighting women's sport, bringing more interest and additional coverage.  Female athletes can also evoke change in other ways by being an influencer, such as by using their own personal stories to inspire others. “The stakeholders on the commercial side of sports are constantly searching for the next frontier, the next growth play,” Dan Cohen, who leads sports marketing company Octagon’s media rights consulting division, said in an email. “It is clearly women’s sports.”

It has been reported that women's sport does not receive as much coverage and investment even though it has more room for growth than men's sport. In 2018 studies showed that only 0.4% of the total commercial investment (in sport) goes into women’s sport, despite a Nielsen report revealing that 84% of general sports fans have an interest in women’s sports. 51% of those surveyed were male, which means utilizing female athletes as a way to reach fans can be greatly beneficial. Deloitte projected that the rise of women’s sports in 2020 would dominate the sports industry and that “sponsors should consider getting involved now to capitalize on the new opportunities and avenues for engagement that this growth area may create.” The influence of social media has also grown since the Nielsen survey was taken, especially since digital activity has been vital to the survival of many industries and how many athletes and leagues interacted with their fans throughout the pandemic. Deloitte's survey found that millennials are 40 percent more likely than baby boomers to use social media to obtain information about their favorite teams and players. This behavioral trend emphasizes the importance of the digital connection athletes have with their fans and the power it wields. 

The pandemic was hard on the sport industry but women's sport continues to have strong growth and investment potential. NWGL's Packer said, "the amount of money that it takes for a company to meaningfully support a women’s league is so vastly different than what it takes to have the smallest piece of attachment for a men’s league.” A good example of this potential for growth is women's soccer in the U.S., which has seen an increase in interest that has translated into an increase in stadium attendance. In 2020 the NWSL was poised to have a record-breaking year after signing new broadcast deals, which resulted in a 22% increase in game attendance, according to Soccer Stadium Digest. In addition to this the women's NCAA tournament continues to prove that it can bring in viewers as it could fetch as much as $20 million a year as a stand-alone event on the open market. Now that things are getting back to normal women's sport will need to keep up the momentum.

Tracey Wilson

Written by Tracey Wilson

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