The Inevitable Rise of Women’s Sports

“If I were to give you a million dollars to invest in women’s sports, where would you invest it?”

What seems like a rather simple, straightforward question, is actually the opposite.

And it’s completely our fault.

Let me explain 👇

Women’s Sports Argument

For years, the plea for investment in women’s sports relied on the argument “you should invest because it’s the right thing to do.” 

However, altruism is not an investment framework.

For the investors, brands, and advertisers who wanted to invest in women’s sports…

There was no data to guide them on how to achieve their business goals (whether that be an increase in brand awareness or maximizing return on investment).

female soccer player on the left getting yellow card from female soccer ref on the right

With no proper media and investment strategy in place, women’s sports properties did not deliver the desired returns.

Rather than reflecting inward — networks attributed disappointing viewership metrics to a “lack of interest in women’s sports.”  

This could not be farther from the truth.

This past year, countless records were broken:

  • The NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship between LSU and Iowa drew 9.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched women’s college basketball game in history.
  • 92,000+ volleyball fans filled an entire football stadium to watch Nebraska take on Omaha, and in the process, set a record for the largest crowd to watch a women’s sports event in the United States.
  • The U.S Open Final between Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka averaged 3.4 million viewers, which not only set a new viewership record for a women’s final on ESPN but drew more than a million more viewers than the men’s final.
  • The NWSL announced a media rights deal with CBS Sports, ESPN, Prime Video, and Scripps Sports worth $240 million over the next 4 years. This is a 5,233% increase from the NWSL’s previous agreement.
nwsl 2023 champions photo holding up trophy

There is no denying that there is an audience hungry for women’s sports content.

Networks have just made it incredibly difficult for fans to prove to investors, brands, and advertisers how insatiable that hunger is.

The Blueprint

In their newest report, “The ROI of Women’s Sports – A Blueprint for Value Investing” — the Sports Innovation Lab identified the barriers inhibiting the investment in women’s sports:

  1. Reach: Because women’s sports are often given unfavorable time slots, they do not achieve maximum reach (exposure). Low reach means less investment in the creation of new content and poor inventory packaging.
  1. Experience: The game day experience has not reached its potential because brands are hesitant to invest in in-person activations when stadium sellouts are not guaranteed.
  1. Discoverability: The fragmented nature of streaming today makes it difficult for fans to support their favorite teams and players.

Check out the report here.

So how do we build an investment framework that takes into account these barriers?

You start by reframing the way you view the investment itself.

Women’s Sports As a Value Investment

What is a value investment?

It is a philosophy that “involves purchasing assets at a discount to their intrinsic value.”

Years of inadequate investment in women’s teams have resulted in low valuations for many leagues, teams, and properties.

However, because the market value has not yet aligned with the true financial potential of the women’s sports community, it presents an incredibly lucrative investment opportunity.

In 2020, Angel City FC’s celebrity ownership group led by Julie Uhrman, Kara Nortman, and Natalie Portman paid a $2 million expansion fee for the right to join the NWSL.

owners of NWSL team Angel City

In the process of rewriting the playbook on what it means to own and operate a professional women’s sports franchise, the team’s valuation ballooned to $180 million.

Earlier this year, Bay FC (NWSL) agreed to a record-breaking $53 million expansion fee. That is a 2550% increase in just three years 🤯

The time to invest in women’s sports is not tomorrow. It’s not today. It was yesterday.

Going Forward

So the question remains, “If I were to give you a million dollars to invest in women’s sports, where would you invest it?”

Here are some spaces that have caught my eye:

Emerging Sports & Leagues


Digital Media Platforms:

  • EspnW
  • Togethxr
  • The GIST
  • HighlightHer
  • Just Women’s Sports
  • Women’s Sports Network
  • The Business Case for Women’s Sports
cartoon image of women's basketball player on left with money in the middle and billie jean king on the right

It is important to remember that you do not need to write a check to “invest” in women’s sports.

As we explored earlier, the entire ecosystem is connected…

The little things, like watching an NWSL game, going to a WNBA game, or engaging with content on social media — shows networks, brands, and advertisers that their dollars are being well spent.

When it comes to women’s sports, we are just barely scratching the surface of its potential.

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