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  • Writer's pictureSamara Kitchener

Top 5 Learnings from Connecting Values, Purpose & Investment: A Workshop to Explore the Win-Win-Win

I’m writing this piece as I wait for my 11-year-old daughter to finish her ballet class so she can get to soccer training. It just takes 5 minutes to change from pink tights to shin pads and soccer boots, but this is not just a change of outfit, it’s a whole new outlook for girls and how they define themselves. Connecting Values, Purpose and Investment: A Workshop to Explore the Win-Win-Win of Women’s Sport was held on 27 March 2018 in Sydney. I had the pleasure of facilitating the workshop. ​The top 5 learnings from the day are summarised below.

1. Girls are just as into sport as boys, but they don’t have as many role models

Any long-term culture change is going to start with children. Jordana Kirby, Director of Marketing, Communications and Creative, Nickelodeon ANZ presented some findings from the Nickelodeon KIDS & SPORTS Study, October 2017 which shows the core of the problem, and the seeds of the solution. “Young girls are just as into sport and boys, but they don’t have as many role models as boys. Our latest KIDS & SPORTS Study found that 5-17 year olds girls could list only half as many role models at the professional level as the boys could in the same age group”, said Jordana. ​​“2017 was watershed year for Women in Sport. 2018 can be themed as ‘if she can see it, she can be it’”, said Kerry Turner, Office of Sport. The rise of women’s professional sports is perhaps one of the greatest opportunities to redefine femininity and equality through powerful role models with many different definitions of what being a girl or woman is.

2. Understanding the untapped market is the starting point for developing a new yardstick to measure women’s sport

​“Female athletes are playing to inspire – not just win. We have women smashing the ‘grass ceiling’ in all areas of sport, including officiating, said Kerry. Kayla Ramiscal, Nielsen Sports outlined that “when viewing the sport commercially, we’re faced with two key questions: Why is it valuable? And how can we convince others of its value?” “When using traditional sponsorship metrics such as audience and media value, the value isn’t quite there for women’s sport. The value lies not in the quantity of the audience, but the quality of the audience and depth of engagement”, said Kayla. Colin Banks, head of sponsorship of SSE (UK energy company & sponsor of Women’s FA Cup), was quoted in a recent Marketing Week article "Sponsorship is more about engagement than awareness – and that’s where women’s sport really delivers. I would rather have 10 people be incredibly positive about my brand than 100 people just knowing about it, because that actually makes a difference. It’s about saying I know who you are and I know who you stand for. The general public actually care about this stuff, so if you want to change people’s opinions of your brand, get involved.”[1]. As an example of different levels of engagement, Kayla compared Tim Cahill and Sam Kerr’s Instagram presence. "On the surface, Tim Cahill has 7X more followers and appears to be a better bet. However, based on their last three posts Cahill’s engagement was 1% per post (on average) and Kerr’s was 11% - with a peak of 15% (based on likes as of 22nd March 2018)."

“We keep referring the fact that women’s sport is reaching a new market - an untapped market – but how do we quantify this?” asked Kayla. “One particularly relevant untapped market for women’s sport is high income millennial females – aged 18-34. This group is values and purpose based, health conscious and connected. They spend four additional hours per week online than other age groups, love photos and videos, and have on average ten connected devices in their homes.” They are also more responsive to sponsorship – showing the following traits:

“Understanding the untapped market is the starting point for developing a new yardstick by which to measure women’s sport.

“Elements that will be key in driving better commercial decisions across the board include more metrics; a deeper understanding of perception – what separates women athletes from men; data on the impact of role models on brand and participation; and an understanding of the next generation – need to know what we are doing is impacting participation throughout the life-course.

“Why is this important? If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. What that means is that if budgets are cut and there is not proof that the partnership is performing, it could be on the chopping block – which we don’t want,” said Kayla.

3. We need to think about content and experiences differently

Olly Wilton – Head of Sport, Twitter Australia said that “Women's sport offers a much more flexible playing field for digital engagement as the rights are less tied up and established.”

“Sport, news and music are our biggest conversation starters on Twitter. Audiences are on phones while they’re watching sport unfold live and engaging on Twitter, we offer a live sport experience.

There is a lot of excitement about women’s sport. On the weekend that AFLW launched (Feb 2017), #AFLW had more tweets about that game than any other game that week – across all codes.

​The globalisation and digitisation of sport means that audiences can be much bigger. 1.6 million people around the world watched the live surfing in Australia on Twitter (Vissla Sydney Surf Pro, Feb 2018); In The US; 1 game per week is shown live on Twitter for the WNBA which attracts 1.1m global viewers.

We also need to think more broadly about how content and experiences can appeal to new and different audiences. "With 85% of Twitter users who are watching live sports content being under 35, Twitter is an interesting way to reach millennial audiences. Content can be provided in more snackable ways, with audiences able to engage in ways that suit them," said Olly.

Nickelodeon’s research into families attending events revealed that families would like more giveaways, fun, prizes, and characters at games. “This has led to into making event days more family friendly, e.g. by including characters like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Nickelodeon’s famous slime – lots of slime”, said Jordana Kirby, Director of Marketing, Communications and Creative, Nickelodeon ANZ. “Nickelodeon aired Crash the Bash over summer, with six, half-hour episodes in partnership with Cricket Australia. The show focused on crowd experience and fun for kids at the game. It was a success with lots of fans at matches trying to get on TV.”

4. Women’s sport can take value alignment to the next level "Women’s sport has been traditionally under-utilised by sponsors, but it is now being recognised for its ability to hold healthy values, its clean image, its ability to build confidence in girls, and its powerful role models with interesting stories", said Tim Underwood, GM-Commercial, Netball NSW.

“Netball has around 300,000+ participants in NSW, and is a brilliant vehicle to engage brands wanting to get to female and family audiences. Brand values align really well with netball and the female role models available in the sport. Values of integrity – female athletes don’t tend to have headlines like the men do.” “An example is Netball NSW’s partnership with Bing Lee. Bing Lee approached Netball as it was seeking a sport with a clean image and family based values to match theirs. Similarly, our partnerships with HCF and Woolworths are centred around ‘Healthy’ values; and our successful 10-year partnership with QBE –recognises the value of accessing role models to inspire their own staff and audiences,” said Tim. 5. Sustainable growth hinges on bridging the gap between elite grassroots levels There were a number of facilitated discussions through the day. Bridging the gap between the elite level and the grassroots level was discussed. Looking at how investment at the elite level affects participation at the grassroots level; and potential for sponsors to access deeper engagement and larger markets at the participation level is key. This also goes to measurement at the grassroots level, and a closer understanding of engagement and participation from grass roots all the way up. Related to this is an ability to target niche markets through micro targeting and meaningful, relevant storytelling. It is important to quantify the power of authentic storytelling. The Disney ‘Proud to be a Princess’ campaign was raised for its flow of connection with untapped markets and non-traditional thinking/partnerships – inspiring a new generation of girls with powerful role models. The group felt that more understanding of each other’s worlds would benefit everybody. “Codes need to learn more about brands, what they are looking for in terms of value connection and corporate social responsibility” – one group said…. “Sports think they know what brands want but often it’s really different. Investors need to get a certain result – greater understanding for codes on what these results are would help package up offerings.” Similarly, brands/ investors would benefit from understanding the raft of values based connections across all elements of a code – from grass roots to professional. Building more stories of successful partnerships and learnings would help move things from innovators and early adopters to wider dissemination. This led into a discussion on expanding the pool of sponsors and audiences through innovative partnerships, and a need for a greater understanding of how the health and social aspects of sport and investment overlap.

WIN-WIN-WIN Model for Sustainable Growth of Women’s Sport

This WIN-WIN-WIN model was developed to structure our thinking for the leveraging investment pillar of the Women in Sport strategy, and formed the basis for the workshop structure. It is based on the principle that a shared set of values sits central to Women’s Sport (as the product), consumer who watch, participate and engage with the sport, and investors (brand/ corporates, broadcasters/ media, government, and sporting codes) who see value in investing in the product. Women’s sport is providing a powerful connection between businesses and brands wanting to tap into values-based positioning. Authentic connections, shared values, and purpose based story-telling are what helps realise the value and propel it forward. Our powerful ‘new age’ role models are not only playing to win; they’re playing to INSPIRE. They are the start of a whole new outlook for kids and how they define themselves. We are at a dawn of a new era in women’s sport. We can all be part of carrying it forward.


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