Sponsorship in women’s sport: The growth, the reasoning & the opportunities

Women’s sport is undergoing a remarkable period of growth. Ignited by a surge in interest and viewership from a new generation of fans, this growth has been further increased by wider media coverage, bringing in more awareness than ever before.  

In this feature, we analyse the impact this has had on the women’s sport sponsorships market, through the lens of Sponsor United’s recent report ‘Women in Sports Marketing Partnerships 2023-24’.

Why women’s sport, why now?

Sponsorships in sport have seen significant success in recent times. The overspill of marketing messaging being transmitted to audiences across every channel has led to a generation of consumers who see through traditional marketing strategies and instead demand meaningful, engaging and authentic communication. 

One of the marketing platforms which has benefited most from this shift in consumer behaviour is sport sponsorship, with sport often being perceived as a platform for good, whilst also having an incredible power to capture engagement. 

Consumers’ desire to change the way that brands approach their marketing, with a more authentic focus, has proven to be particularly beneficial for women’s sport. Research from Nielsen Sports found that women’s sport is perceived to be more ‘inspiring’, ‘progressive’, ‘family-oriented’ and ‘clean’ in comparison to its male counterpart. 

With consumers wanting more authentic and meaningful messaging, and women’s sport offering a platform to deliver just that, it should perhaps not come as a great surprise that more brands are investing in the space. But what does the sponsorship market look like in women’s sport, who are the brands investing, and what opportunities are there for new businesses looking to capitalise?

The growth of sponsorship in women’s sport

Women’s sport is undergoing a remarkable period of growth. Ignited by a surge in interest and viewership from a new generation of fans, this growth has been further increased by wider media coverage, bringing in more awareness than ever before.  

The heightened awareness that has now been bestowed upon many women’s sports has had a resounding impact on sponsorship opportunities. 

Global sports data provider Sponsor United’s report ‘Women in Sports Marketing Partnerships 2023-24’ found that the number of sponsorships in women’s professional sports increased by more than 22% YoY across leagues, teams and athletes from 2023 to 2024. 

Globally, this led to more than 5,500 sponsorship deals being activated during the time period. The growth is visible across most major markets and sports, but has been particularly prevalent in Golf and Tennis. 

Two sporting associations - Ladies Professional Golf Association (1,100) and World Tennis Association (1,080) have contributed most to the +5,500 deals that were activated, whilst Basketball’s WNBA and several Football (Soccer) leagues have also seen significant increases in recent times. 

The brands investing in women’s sport

Nike has long been at the forefront of sport sponsorship. The sporting apparel brand was one of the first companies to centre their marketing strategy around athlete sponsorship, before expanding into collaborating with teams and leagues, and generating more than $600M of brand value per year from their sponsorship investment

With this in mind, it should perhaps come as no surprise that they are also leading the way for sponsorship in women’s sport. The Oregon-headquartered company has more partnerships with individual female athletes than any other brand, whilst also joining fellow sporting goods manufacturers Gilbert and Wilson as one of the biggest investors in women’s sports leagues and teams.  

But the sponsorship landscape in women’s sport is diverse, attracting brands from a host of different industries. Sponsor United’s previously referenced report found that the apparel, financial, beverage and healthcare industries are amongst those leading the way. 

Within these industries, a number of brands, including Gatorade, EA SPORTS FC, Hologic and AON, have invested across multiple properties in women’s sport. 

Opportunities for brands in women’s sport 

Sponsorship in women’s sport is approaching the end of its early adopter stage, as the industry continues to grow at a staggering pace. Innovators such as Adidas and Nike have set the standard and reaped the rewards. 

This is particularly true in North America, which has proven to be a breeding ground for brands investing in women’s sport. Here, a number of key lessons can be learned by companies from around the world, including untapped categories for sponsorship. 

Sponsor United’s report ‘Women in Sports Marketing Partnerships 2023-24’, found that sponsorship opportunities from the financial, food, business services and insurance industries have performed notably well in North America, whilst remaining relatively untouched in other global markets. 

Equally, the technology, retail, construction, hotel, restaurant and leisure industries all have a strong presence across sports in Australasia, Asia and Europe, giving North American brands and rights holders food for thought about future opportunities in their market. 

Sponsorship in women’s sport has long been either bundled with men’s sport or dominated by sporting goods manufacturers, but as the industry has grown the sponsorship landscape has changed. 

There is now, more than ever, a great opportunity for brands of every industry to utilise the power of women’s sport. 

At SPORTFIVE, we work with the biggest brands to help mould and implement sponsorships in women’s sport. 

From connecting brands like Adobe and Skoda with world leading rightsholders to activating LEGO’s meaningful campaign work with football stars like Samantha Kerr, we build the bridges between brands and women’s sport.
If you want to find out more about sponsorship in women’s sport or our work, feel free to get in touch.

Beyond the Match
The SPORTFIVE Magazine

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