Understand the current landscape, trends, and opportunities within women’s sports in the US. This report examines women’s sports coverage, how fans are engaging, and opportunities for focus. Use Mintel’s expertise to become more informed, and more able to tackle challenges in your industry. Read on to discover the insight you can gain from this report.

Women’s Sports Landscape

Over half of US adults follow women’s sports. While slightly less than for men’s sports, this strong base of followers are in fact according to Mintel’s exclusive research more passionate. There is great potential then for more coverage of women’s sports, especially with the majority of women’s sports fans supporting equal coverage to men’s sports. This point becomes important with the fact that only 5.1% of network affiliate sports news coverage is for women’s sports. So, while progress is being made, there’s a lot of headway to be made, and good reason to make it.

Women’s Sports Fan Engagement

Almost half of those who follow women’s sports follow to support the category. This comes alongside the fact that fans are eager to go beyond just attending sporting events; an equal amount like to follow their favorite athletes/teams on social media. A number are also likely to purchase merchandise, or play a women’s sports video game.

Of the women’s sports measured, women’s Olympic sports attract the most viewers, by far, while basketball is at the top of seasonal play. UFC (women fighters) follows a close third behind WNBA, indicating a success for the promotion in its efforts to highlight women fighters.

  • Women’s sports trends: 63% of 25-34 year-old fans would pay extra to have access to more women’s sporting events on cable or streaming platforms. 
  • Women’s sports challenges: 52% of women’s sports fans say pay equity is an issue that teams and leagues need to address.
  • Women’s sports digital innovation: 39% of parents use social media to watch live women’s sports games, and 28% play a women’s sports video game, higher than nonparents.

Opportunities in Women’s Sports

For non-fans, the reasons behind a lack of interest in women’s sports are similar to those for not following sports in general. Rather than targeting those who simply don’t enjoy sports, leagues should focus on improving coverage to increase awareness and familiarity among existing sports fans.

For women’s sports, the future looks to be tipped toward digital channels. While Mintel’s research finds that broadcast TV is currently the mainstay for fans to keep updated on women’s sports, those aged 18-34 are embracing social media — among other digital channels — as a way to follow their favorite team. This highlights how multichannel marketing could be standard practice for brands utilizing women’s sports to reach consumers.

To understand broader trends in women’s sports, buy our complete report that features over 60 pages of statistics, analysis, and expert recommendations to help you better inform your business decisions.

Quickly Understand

  • Women’s sports fans and key demographics of followers.
  • Factors impacting the US women’s sports landscape and women’s sport fans.
  • How fans follow women’s sports and opportunities to reach women’s sports fans.
  • How media, teams, and leagues should support women’s sports.
  • Consumer attitudes towards women’s sports.

Leading Organizations and Brands Covered

Sports Organizations: WNBA, NCAA, PHF, LPGA, NWSL, and more.

Brands: Buick, Michelob Ultra, Forbes, Nike, Sports Business Journal, Xbox, Front Office Sports, FanDuel, and more.

Expert Analysis from a Sports Specialist

This report, written by John Lisec, a leading analyst in the sports and leisure sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends in women’s sports and add expert context to the numbers.

Women’s sports are an important and growing segment of today’s sports industry. Women’s sports fans are among the most passionate, yet are an underestimated and overlooked element of modern sports fans. Emerging from the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, women’s sports are set to achieve the next level of success with increased financial investments, newly developed leagues (eg NWSL, PHF), promising NIL partnerships and eager fan bases.

John Lisec - Research Analyst


John Lisec
Sports and Leisure Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • This Report looks at the following areas
        • Definition
          • Market context
          • Executive Summary

              • Top takeaways
                • Overview of women’s sports fans
                  • Figure 1: Women’s sports followed, 2022
                  • Figure 2: Outlook for women’s sports, 2022-27
                • Opportunities
                  • Engage fans beyond the competition, build loyalty through connections
                    • Figure 3: Sporting interests of women’s sports fans, 2022
                  • Lifestyle branding of Girl Dads: opportunities to engage fathers
                    • Figure 4: Men’s reasons for following women’s sports, by parental status, 2022
                  • Female Millennial fans eager for unique women’s sports hallmark events
                    • Figure 5: Daytona Soccer Fest Twitter post – 4th of July Fan of Fun, 2022
                  • Growing interest in women’s sports through fantasy sports and sports betting
                    • Figure 6: Attitudes toward women’s sports – Access, by generation, 2022
                  • Metaverse, video games and esports provide unique ways to engage fans
                    • Video game players and parents seek tech-based engagement
                      • Women’s sports and NIL: Gen Z lifestyle branding opportunities up for grabs
                        • Challenges
                          • Engaging older adults difficult as women’s sports emerge on tech-based platforms
                            • Figure 7: Services used to follow women’s sports, by age, 2022
                          • Growing in-person attendance
                          • The US Women’s Sports Landscape

                            • More than half of adults follow women’s sports, men are more likely fans
                              • Figure 8: Follows any women’s vs follows any men’s sport, by gender, 2022
                            • Women’s Olympics have the greatest draw; basketball and UFC are 2nd tier
                              • Figure 9: Women’s sports followed, 2022
                            • Most fans of women’s sports follow one or two types
                              • Figure 10: Count of women’s and men’s sports followed, type of women’s sports by number followed, 2022
                            • Key players in women’s sports
                              • Figure 11: Women’s sports leagues
                          • Women’s Sports Fans – Demographic Profile

                            • Fandom skews male, Millennial and toward parents
                              • Figure 12: Profile of women’s sports fans, indexed to all consumers, 2022
                          • Factors Impacting Women’s Sports

                            • 50Th Anniversary of Title IX: From trailblazers to modern sports icons
                              • Figure 13: Sports Business Journal Twitter post – 50 Years of Title IX, 2022
                            • NIL and women’s sports: Sports sponsorship and Gen Z lifestyle branding
                              • Figure 14: Opendorse Twitter post – Women’s sports NIL deals, 2022
                            • Gender equity and equal pay impacts women’s sports growth
                              • Lack of media coverage continues to impact women’s sports fandom
                              • Competitive Strategies and Market Opportunities

                                • Mintel Trend Drivers
                                  • Rights: brand equity with a purpose
                                    • Female athlete empowerment, unequitable media coverage pushed to the forefront
                                      • Figure 15: Buick Twitter post – See her greatness, 2022
                                      • Figure 16: “Buzzer Beater” | See Her Greatness | Buick, TV advertisement, 2022
                                    • Michelob Ultra ‘Save It, See It’: Enacting tangible change in women’s sports
                                      • Figure 17: Forbes Sports Money Twitter post – Michelob Ultra commits $100 million to women’s sports, 2021
                                    • Athlete empowerment and brand collaboration for a cause
                                      • Figure 18: Sports Business Journal Twitter post – Nike Think Tank, 2022
                                    • Identity: targeted engagement strategies
                                      • PHF Pride Profiles engage the LGBTQ+ community in an impactful manner
                                        • Figure 19: Premier Hockey Federation Twitter post – Pride Profiles, 2022
                                      • Women’s sports and eSports: WNBA, LPGA highlight new video game integrations
                                          • Figure 20: NBA 2K Twitter post – WNBA edition cover athletes, 2022
                                        • Experiences: taking women’s sporting events to the next level
                                          • Women’s basketball enters the Metaverse through Xbox and Roblox partnership
                                            • Figure 21: Xbox Wire/NY Liberty Twitter post – WNBA’s first gaming-inspired court, 2022
                                          • Daytona Soccer Fest: Unique NWSL match at Daytona International Speedway
                                            • Figure 22: Front Office Sports Twitter post – Daytona Soccer Fest, 2022
                                          • WNBA and FanDuel: growing interest in women’s sports betting and daily fantasy
                                              • Figure 23: Sportico Twitter post – WNBA and FanDuel partnership, 2022
                                          • Women’s Sports Fans – Fast Facts

                                            • Women’s sports fans are passionate, skews Millennials and parents
                                              • Fans follow for fun, to support women’s sports
                                                • Broadcast TV leads, younger fans increasing use digital services
                                                  • Tech-based experiences can be leveraged to reach younger fans
                                                    • Women’s sports fans want more coverage, equal broadcast time
                                                      • Fans willing to pay for coverage, parents trust female athlete endorsements
                                                      • Exploring Women’s Sports Fans

                                                        • Use tailored strategies to target diverse fan base of women’s sports
                                                          • Figure 24: Women’s sports fans, by key demographics, 2022
                                                        • Myth busting: women’s sports aren’t just for ladies
                                                          • Figure 25: Women’s sports followed, by gender, 2022
                                                        • Opportunity for male/female athlete collaborations within the same sport
                                                          • Figure 26: Women’s and men’s sports followed – Select items, 2022
                                                        • WNBA and women’s UFC star power resonates among younger adults
                                                            • Figure 27: Women’s sports followed – Select items, by age, 2022
                                                          • Consistent, authentic brand engagement is key within women’s sports
                                                            • Figure 28: Women’s sports followed – NETs and interest in women’s sports – NETS, 2022
                                                          • Fans of the most aggressive women’s sports are most passionate
                                                            • Figure 29: Interest in women’s sports – NETs, by women’s sport, 2022
                                                        • Motivations for Following Women’s Sports

                                                          • Women’s sports fans follow for excitement, also have broader motivations
                                                            • Figure 30: Reasons for following women’s sports, 2022
                                                          • “Girl Dad” lifestyle branding can be effective
                                                            • Figure 31: Men’s reasons for following women’s sports, by parental status, 2022
                                                          • Non-fans cite disinterest, lack familiarity with women’s sports
                                                            • Figure 32: Reasons for not following women’s sports, 2022
                                                        • How Fans Follow Women’s Sports

                                                          • Broadcast TV leads the way, digital expansion is key
                                                            • Figure 33: Services used to follow women’s sports and general sports, 2022
                                                          • Fans bypass traditional media for additional coverage and analysis
                                                            • Figure 34: Services used to follow women’s sports, by age, 2022
                                                          • Video game players mirror younger fans for methods of following women’s sports
                                                            • Figure 35: Services used to follow women’s sports, by video game players vs video game non-players, 2022
                                                        • Sporting Interests of Women’s Sports Fans

                                                          • Women’s sports fans open to new engagement options
                                                            • Figure 36: Sporting interests of women’s sports fans, 2022
                                                          • Millennial women interested in social media, merch, esports, fantasy sports
                                                            • Figure 37: Sporting interests of Millennial fans of women’s sports, by gender and age, 2022
                                                          • Parents seek tech-based engagement more than attending games
                                                            • Figure 38: Sporting interests of women’s sports fans, by parental status and number of children, 2022
                                                        • How Media Should Support Women’s Sports

                                                          • Fans seek more coverage, allies for women’s sports growth
                                                            • Figure 39: Most important for media to do to support women’s sports – Rank, 2022
                                                          • Focus on athletic success/ability – off-field portrayals are less important
                                                            • Figure 40: Important for media to do to support women’s sports – focus and portrayals, by gender and age, 2022
                                                          • Rural fans want equality in coverage, urban look for female broadcasters
                                                            • Figure 41: Most important for media to do to support women’s sports – Any rank, by area, 2022
                                                        • How Teams/Leagues Should Support Women’s Sports

                                                          • Pay equity and community outreach top-of-mind for women’s sports fans
                                                              • Figure 42: Most important for teams and leagues to do to support women’s sports – Rank, 2022
                                                            • Younger men focused on representation – equitable pay, not so much
                                                              • Figure 43: Agendas for teams and leagues to support women’s sports – Any rank, by gender and age, 2022
                                                            • Black and Hispanic fans interested in hiring, interviewing practices
                                                              • Figure 44: Most important for teams and leagues to do to support women’s sports – Any rank by ethnicity and race, 2022
                                                          • Attitudes Toward Women’s Sports

                                                            • Fans want more coverage and a break from men’s sports coverage
                                                              • Figure 45: Attitudes toward women’s sports – Access, 2022
                                                            • Millennial fans crave additional women’s sports content outside of games
                                                              • Figure 46: Attitudes toward women’s sports – Access, by generation, 2022
                                                            • Women’s sports fans willing to pay extra to access more sporting events
                                                              • Figure 47: Would pay extra to have access to more women’s sporting events, by key demographics, 2022
                                                            • Prioritize on-field performance to resonate with fans
                                                              • Figure 48: Attitudes toward women’s sports – Marketing women’s sports, 2022
                                                            • Younger fans feel women’s sports are part of their personal identity
                                                              • Figure 49: Attitudes toward women’s sports – Marketing women’s sports, by gender and age, 2022
                                                            • Women’ sports fans are open to a variety of athlete portrayals
                                                              • Figure 50: Attitudes toward women’s sports – Marketing through sports, 2022
                                                            • Parents, particularly dads, value women’s sports sponsors/endorsements
                                                              • Figure 51: Attitudes towards women’s sports – Marketing through sports by number of children under 18 in household, 2022
                                                          • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                            • Data sources
                                                              • Consumer survey data
                                                                • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                  • Abbreviations

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