DANA POINT, Calif. — Women have long been a sought-after demographic for almost every company. After all, women make a majority of the decisions when it comes to household spending. That spending includes purchases of tickets to sporting events and workout apparel for themselves and their families. Women are also one of the quickest-growing fan demographics in sports. Furthermore, women already hold top-level positions throughout the business side of leagues, unions and media companies. Examples: Michele Roberts (NBPA executive director), Christine Driessen (executive vice president and CFO at ESPN), and Pam El (NBA CMO). In 2010, ESPN launched espnW.com, a site focused on producing sports/active lifestyle content for the female fan. Along with the website, espnW holds an annual conference designed to bring together a network of women and men interested in advancing women’s place in sports.
This year’s three-day summit was held at the St. Regis Hotel in Dana Point, Calif., and continued to strengthen that mission. “The attendee level has only increased, the number of influencers, the number of people who really do have power and influence in sports has really increased (in attendance) over the last five years,” said Laura Gentile, vice president espnW.
The list of attendees was packed with people from ESPN, leagues, teams, apparel companies, financial companies, and every other industry vertical that touches the world of sports and entertainment. “There are so many issues that there just wasn’t a forum for all of us to get together and address,” said Gentile. The espnW summit has provided that forum.
ESPN has also been a leader in the broadcasting of women’s sports. It has the TV rights to women’s college basketball and the WNBA, and broadcasts extensive coverage of women’s sports in general. In 2014, ESPN will televise at least 7600 hours of women’s sports across its networks. Still there is room for growth and ESPN has recognized the need for a women’s perspective. espnW has provided that viewpoint. espnW has contributed more and more to ESPN as a whole, especially in regard to current issues such as domestic violence. Gentile said ESPN has been reaching out more and more: “We want your (ESPNW’s) voice on SportsCenter, we want your voice on Olbermann, we want your voice on Mike & Mike.” This type of focused coverage can lead to stronger and more inclusive content creation.
espnW believes that it can add to ESPN while also providing specific content catered to the female demographic.
The notion of women as this incredible target audience and incredible fan base for sports has always been in our sights. It has always been our vision. We focus very much on creating great content that focus on women’s sports and female athletes, but we always set out to create a brand that really resonates with women as our target audience. – Laura Gentile, vice president espnW.
With the continued growth of the espnW Summit and website (which hit over eight million unique viewers in September), Gentile and her team are moving steadily toward that goal.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.