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Home  > The business of women’s sports

The Dollar Dribble in Women’s Sports
by Stu Watson

Ah, the benefits of gender equity in professional sports.

Tiger Woods earns $6.6 million on the pro golf tour in 1999, and scores $115 million in endorsement deals from Nike, Buick and American Express. Karrie Webb, meantime, wins six women’s pro golf tournaments, finishes in the top ten 22 times, sets a single-season scoring record and earns $1.6 million.

What’s going on?

Viewed individually, either athlete is an unqualified success. Viewed side by side, there’s little comparison. Tiger is walking off with the bigger bucks, by far.

Women are rapidly gaining visibility, participation and salary in the world of professional athletics, but they are still a long way from an equal piece of the biggest pie in the sports universe: team-based salaries and endorsement contracts.

Jacquelyn Cuneen, an associate professor of sports and event promotion at Bowling Green University, has researched sports marketing and says men dominate in advertising.

Old-line thinking or marketing reality?

Women buy more than 80 percent of all sporting goods, according to The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. But, they are less influenced than men by celebrity endorsements or they are influenced only by celebrities they respect, according to other research.

By all available evidence, women athletes are a rising force, and as their numbers and celebrity grow, savvy marketers will scoop up the best to pitch products.

As a rule of thumb, large companies bet on marquee events, smaller advertisers opt for niche sports and focused events, says Bill Chipps, senior editor of the IEG Sponsorship Report.

The effort by Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen to walk across Antarctica would ordinarily tend to attract niche marketers, Chipps says, because of its media isolation and niche audience.

"My gut tells me that the kinds of companies that would be interested would be makers of hiking gear and apparel, because you have related product use, or they might even provide a product to be tested under extreme conditions," he says.

When major marketers such as Volvo, Pfizer and Motorola choose to associate with an endeavor like the Bancroft Arnesen Expedition, it may be for other reasons.

As Cuneen of Bowling Green notes, advertisers know that women make the more informed purchasing decisions, and respond more to “cause marketing” as education.

The Media Boost

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Days on the ice: 91
Position: 84.23S, 177.16W
Altitude: 184.0 ft
Temp: 14.0°F | -10.0°C
Distance: 1708.95 miles