The Northland Age
Black Ferns’ win a turning point for women’s sport
The Black Ferns’ epic win at the Rugby Women’s World Cup final in Auckland at the weekend was a moment in sporting history and a turning point for women’s sport in this country.
The appetite for women’s sport cannot be denied, with close to 43,000 people filling Auckland’s Eden Park — the largest-ever crowd in New Zealand history to attend a woman’s sporting event and a world-record crowd for a women’s rugby international.
Anecdotal social media statistics also showed that millions of people from around the world tuned in to watch the match and subsequent matches in the lead-up to the grand final.
This keen interest in women’s sport confirms WPP’s (the world’s largest advertising company) findings that women’s sport is on the rise like never before.
Compared to previous decades, WPP reports there have been significant increases in the professionalisation of women’s sport, with increases in the levels of commercial interest, viewership and prize money for athletes.
The agency said in 2021 alone, the headlines of growth in women’s sport had been vast, where in January, it was announced the top 10 highest-paid women earned a combined $167 million in 2021, a 23 per cent increase from 2020.
It was estimated that largely thanks to unbundled rights,
sponsorship investment in women’s sports, we would start to see a 146 per cent increase year-on-year.
2022 has also seen recordbreaking attendances almost across the board, in football, cricket and rugby and other codes.
Yet despite this keen interest in women’s sport, many elite female athletes continue to receive less support and salaries than their male counterparts, with many still required to work a 9-5 job to support their sporting commitments.
I remember having a conversation with Black Ferns prop and Northland Kauri captain Krystal Murray (Te Paatu) last year, after she had been selected to play for the Black Ferns in Europe.
She said there were many Northland players, both amateur and professional, who were super keen to play, but due to family and work commitments, the commute to training in Whangā rei was often a large barrier to participating at the level required to go further with the sport.
According to Sport New ZealandIhi Aotearoa, this is a common story for many women, with clear inequalities regarding participation, and women/girls wider involvement and visibility within sport and active recreation in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Women’s achievements in sport are also often less visible, and frequently stereotyped in the media.
According to both Sport New Zealand-Ihi Aotearoa and WPP,
increasing the visibility of females as athletes, participants, coaches and leaders, will not only provide role models for the future but demonstrate that society values their contribution.
WPP believes, however, that the current climate represents a tremendous opportunity for rightsholders and brands alike.
The advertising agency says fans of women’s sport typically differ in their demographic — with notably more female fans — but also in their behaviour, with a stronger brand recall of sponsors, and a higher propensity to purchase sponsors’ products than fans of men’s sport.
The agency therefore believes investing in women’s sport is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do moving forward.