Member Q&A Series: Women in Sport – The current state of media and marketing play

On July 29, 2021 Research & Resources

YouGov recently released a ‘Women in Sport Report 2021’ highlighting the need for more awareness of and adoption of women’s sport around the world. The media, marketing and advertising industry plays an important in creating equality in sport. To help with this aim we are asking a range of industry experts to discuss female sports viewership, fan engagement and how advertisers can find marketing opportunities that work for their brands.  In our Q&A this week we will focus on driving better education and understanding of this key topic and how companies are driving forward Women in Sport in the AU market.

Thankyou to those who contributed from Optus, Nielsen, Foxtel Media and AFL Australia


Hayley Cameron, Digital Advertising Commercial Manager TV and Content, Optus

How has the availability of women’s sports content improved over recent years? What distribution and consumption trends are we seeing in Australia?

Consumer demand for women's sport has increased, leading Optus Sport to secure more women’s sport content, which has seen overall growth in viewer consumption. Optus Sport is broadcasting more women’s football content in 2021 than ever before, and the consumption options for audiences are on par with what is available for the international men’s leagues. Optus Sport has added to its FA Women’s Super League (WSL) coverage, from one match per week in previous seasons to every match in the competition in 2020/21, live and exclusive on Optus Sport.

WSL fans can consume the content live or on demand, via multiple devices and as short or long form clips, similar to how the Premier League is promoted across Optus Sport. Making every WSL match available in the 2020/21 season increased the average live reach by 141% year-on-year (yoy), increased the average total reach by 30% (yoy) and increased the average viewing times by 18% (yoy).

But it was 2019 that Optus Sport saw a significant shift in women’s sport. The only place to watch every match of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup was on Optus Sport, and the Matildas matches, which was also available on free-to-air, had higher average viewing than the most recent Premier League and UEFA Champions League seasons men’s competitions. Optus’ commitment to changing the future young Australians see, includes female representation leading commentary and on-air analysis, and production. The recent UEFA Euros tournament in June and July was a highlight, with Optus Sport having six female experts, and three female hosts (of five) across the tournament coverage.

Optus aims to change perceptions and spark conversation about women’s football and connect with communities and will continue to do that through coverage of the Women’s Euros in 2022 and the Women’s World Cup in 2023, both on Optus Sport.


Kayla Ramsical, Associate Director, Sports, Nielsen

How has the availability of women’s sports content improved over recent years? What distribution and consumption trends are we seeing in Australia?

In recent years, the amount of media coverage dedicated to women’s sport has increased and has unlocked great opportunities. We’ve seen the success of Suncorp Super Netball who have been able to increase accessibility to content and have seen gains in television viewership.  This has led to a new broadcast deal, set to begin in 2022, which further improves the position of the league. The WNBL, as well, has seen progress with games broadcast on ABC in 2020/21. Often, women’s leagues must find a balance between the mass reach of free-to-air television and the commercial benefits of a subscription platform.

We know from Nielsen N-Score research, which quantifies the intangible benefits of various sponsorship properties, that women’s sport has strong results across all attributes however many entities have low awareness. Continuing to address visibility and accessibility of women’s sports can provide further opportunities for growth.  

What has been just as interesting has been the creativity in how women’s sports and female athletes have connected with fans. Athletes and personalities have launched podcasts such as The Female Athlete Project with Chloe Dalton, or On Her Game with Sam Squiers. Without the media coverage that men’s sport enjoys, these women have taken matters into their own hands.

And fans are responding to this; we know that social media is a key arena in which fans engage with sport and we’ve seen high levels of growth and engagement with female athletes. Our recent Influencescope data -  which uncovers personalities that will help brands and Rights Holders drive content distribution, reach, engagement, sociodemographic and psychographics fit, media return and effectiveness -  shows that athletes like Liz Cambage, Kaylee Mckeown, Ash Barty, and Sam Kerr have seen high levels of growth and engagement across their platforms, outperforming several of their male counterparts such as Ben Simmons and Mack Horton. 

What tips would you give advertisers and agencies looking to reach female sports audiences and align their brands with female sports?

Brands need to know their audiences. There is a common misconception that women’s sports are only of interest to women, but most sports fan bases still skew male and these fans are very passionate about the sport. While you do want brand alignment and fit, promoting products or services that are not relevant to the fan base will limit the impact of your partnership.

Give something back to fans. We know that fans, particularly those aged 34 and under, are responsive to sponsorship across their likelihood to notice, engage with, and purchase from brands. However, fans are smart. They know when they’re being sold to and they don’t always respond positively – after all, they are first and foremost a fan of the sport. Understanding what fans want and help to enhance their experience or improve the sport they love ensures that you can engage in an authentic way. We’ve seen several brands do this successfully: Suncorp and Super Netball’s Team Girls campaign focuses on building confidence in young women and girls. Pantene and the Matildas campaign is all about encouraging lifelong participation in sport. Globally, Zwift’s investment in the Tour de France Femmes contributes to staging the event and its long-term viability. These partnerships are not focused on immediately selling products or services but about establishing connections with a discerning fan base. When these things are done well, the commercial returns will come.


Kate Waugh, Head of Sports Partnerships, Foxtel Media

Have you seen any brands engaging and partnering well with women in sport? Can you give an example and talk to why it works so well?  

Investments in women’s sports had to be made before the metrics followed.  At FOX Sports, we see it as our role to give women’s sport a platform with new innovations and significant investment to drive audience increases and demonstrate the power of women’s sport. However, there is still room for growth when we talk about brands engaging & partnering with women’s sport. More work needs to be done to encourage and challenge traditional men’s sport sponsors to invest. 

There are many progressive brands that are already investing in women’s sports, including NAB, Suncorp, Harvey Norman and CBA. 

NAB is currently the naming rights partner of AFLW and work tirelessly to pave the way for inspiring AFL players, with significant spend across multiple media outlets including FOX Footy & KAYO. Harvey Norman sponsors codes across both genders on the FOX Sports & Kayo platforms and Suncorp continues to demonstrate their significant commitment to women’s sport with their TEAM Girls marketing initiative. Suncorp is also the official naming rights partner of the Suncorp Super Netball and FOX Sports’ FOXW pop up channel that broadcast earlier this year. Suncorp also invests in other women’s sport codes across our network. 

Brand engagement and partnership works well when brands support athletes and codes with 360 support, including ambassador agreements, code partnership and broadcast partnerships across digital and social media.  Brands that weave their messaging and brand values into the fabric of the game and their marketing communications are usually the standouts from an advertising perspective, because audiences can sense their authenticity. 

Our list of brand partners for women’s sport is ever- growing and with the introduction of netball to our platform in 2022, we are confident that more partners will flock to the codes in the near future. 

How has the development of digital media distribution options, growth of digital audiences and digital advertising options impacted the female sports business? From a business perspective, how is your business looking to elevate women’s sport?

FOX Sports are leaders in sports broadcasting and we have a unique opportunity to level the playing field and discover, welcome and spotlight the amazing female athletes Australia. We currently broadcast 19 women’s sports across 48 competitions.  FOX Sports and KAYO give these athletes a home to inspire the next generations– If you can see it, you can be it. We see it as our privilege and responsibility to lead from the front and demonstrate the power of women’s sport. 

The launch of digital media distribution platforms and the growth of digital audiences across platforms like KAYO has given women’s sports additional exposure. It allows audiences to follow their favourite sports, codes and athletes on designated available sites and streaming services. Whether that be LIVE appointment viewing or through KAYO minis and other highlights catch-up options.  

These platforms also give women a voice. It’s where we can host additional content, back stories and archives to showcase the talent we have here in Australia. Women’s sport is sport and just as competitive as men’s sport. It is no longer a tier 2 option to viewers and fans, it’s a preferred tier 1 option that has a critical following. 

Earlier this year, FOX SPORTS & KAYO formed a partnership with Netball Australia, taking over the rights for the code for the next five years, commencing in 2022. Adding netball to our already strong line up of sports bolstered our women’s sport offering. FOX Sports has also rebranded one of our channels to FOXW; a pop channel that broadcast earlier this year to cater to our growing female and family audiences, and advertisers. 

In 2022, FOX Sports will broadcast the 10th Annual Women’s Health Women in Sport Awards. These awards are about the grit and talent; and celebrating fierce female athleticism. 

Sports and sports commentary is still widely dominated globally by male talent, voices and opinions. At FOX Sports, we have been working to shift the dial on this and are leading the way with our line up of female commentators and presenters. In addition to raising the profile of women in sports on-camera, Foxtel carries this philosophy throughout the business. The company’s inclusive, progressive culture places prime importance on mentoring female team members and helping them to balance their personal and professional commitments. 


Sarah Wyse, General Manager – Digital, Media and Marketing, AFL Australia

How has the development of digital media distribution options, growth of digital audiences and digital advertising options impacted the female sports business? From a business perspective, how is your business looking to elevate women’s sport? 

Digital media and distribution as a way to reach engage more women and men with women’s sport has helped to supercharge the profile and platform of the AFLW league and our female athletes. The ability to create a range of content across multiple platforms has allowed us to engage our most avid sports fans whilst acquiring new fans who have come to love our womens product over the last 5 years. The AFLs Media Network in combination with other digital platforms such as Instagram, Tik Tok, Youtube and Facebook have allowed us creative license to dream up new ways of telling stories and sharing the inner sanctum with our fans. The rise of player led content on these platforms has also opened doors to growth, engagement and commercial opportunities that go beyond the spots and dots.