The Importance of the Female Football Fan

August 16, 2014 § 1 Comment

imageFootball season is upon us and women are gearing up for the season. Yes, women are a real target and marketing to women has never been more important.   Advertisers know who is buying all those wings and chips for the game.  But the female factor goes beyond just supplying the game day food.

“Women are the custodians of most decisions made in the households,” said Mark Waller, the chief marketing officer of the N.F.L. Describing football as “the last great campfire,” which brings families together on Sundays as reliably as church, Waller said women were at the heart of the sport’s most sacred rituals.

The Facts – NFL

More women are regular season viewers of NFL football than NBA and Major League Baseball.  Some 23-28% of women watch between 6 and 10 hours of football per week.

45% of NFL fans are women.  And 55% of women watch football on television. Over the past decade, average viewership of prime-time NFL games has increased by 31 percent to 20.3 million, according to Nielsen.  In 2013, every network that had broadcast games reported increased viewership. Most weeks, in fact, NFL games aren’t just the most-watched sporting events on television — they’re the most-watched thing on TV.

Nine out of 10 top viewed single programs in 2013 were live football events. The only one that wasn’t football was the Oscars. Football has become the only real time event that gathers the whole family in front of the television.

More women watch the Super Bowl than the Oscars, Grammys and Emmys combined.

The NFL has focused on giving women more than men’s jerseys for the past few years and sales of women’s apparel have tripled over the past four years.

The Facts – The Advertising

Just like we have seen the influence of marketing to women in the Olympics and World Cup Soccer, the top rated commercials during the Super Bowl 2014 definitely appealed to women, Budweiser’s Puppy Love, Dorito’s Cowboy Kid, and Budweiser’s Hero’s Welcome.

The Facts – College Football

39% of college football fans are women. In college, more than 49 million fans turned out to watch a college game in the stands but more than 216 million tuned in to watch a game.

The Facts – At Home

Homegating is a real thing.   Football is as much a tradition for Sundays than going to church?  It is the one place where family and friends can group around a single event.  And eat.  Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest food consumption day of the year, behind only Thanksgiving, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to Bud Light, female fans (45-percent) are 10-percent more likely than male fans to socialize during a game.

20% of Fantasy Football Fans are women.

The Facts – Influence

Last year, Barna found that Americans believe athletes have a greater influence than any faith leaders. And in a new 2014 study, more than four in 10 women (41%) strongly agree that sports are an important part of American culture.

More than Just Fans

Women are more likely to be fans for life. Women are more brand loyalists and it seems that football teams are really brands.  But increasingly, women are becoming more than just fans or  grown-up cheerleaders for football. They are playing in football leagues, coaching, sportscasting and taking on referee roles.   Sarah Thomas is a name you will likely here this year as the first female referee in the NFL. She shattered the male dominated profession seven years ago at the collegiate level, officiating games for Conference USA. She was the first female official at the NCAA’s Division I level, and the first to work a college bowl game.

Marketing to Women

Marketing to women is often a delicate science of respecting their gender and not falling into some pink state of condescension. It’s not a world of “pink it and shrink it” anymore.

But the stakes are high for females. The male market is tapped out. Women represent the growing side of the football market. But female football fans are dealing with lots of contradictory issues. Health issues are huge for those moms of budding and current NFL players. Violence often makes headlines with players in the headlines for everything from domestic assault to murder. Women were particularly upset with the slap-on-the-wrist two-game suspension for Ravens Ray Rice who knocked his fiancé unconscious in a casino earlier this year, but he was ultimately handed an indefinite suspension.

And at the same time, we see the tremendous good that comes from the sports community service. Individual players have foundations that work with kids, support charities and volunteer in the community.

But all that pink?   Once a year, the NFL sponsors a breast cancer awareness game where players wear pink shoes and gloves and a portion of the pink NFL merchandise sales goes to the American Cancer Society.

Can football continue to grow?  It seems it will take a deep understanding of women and their role in the game – as mothers, as sports professionals, and as fans.

 

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