The Data Behind the Women’s Professional Sports Movement

The Data Behind the Women’s Professional Sports Movement

Evolving Industry

How important is data collection and analysis in shaping the future of women’s professional sports?

The payscale chasm between male and female athletes tends to dominate sports forum discussions around gender equality. Yet, the prospect of leveraging data to unlock new opportunities for growth and recognition is often lost in the conversation. 

Nancy Hensley, Founding Member and Advisor for Mercury/13, shared her thoughts on the challenges and potential in this dynamic topic.

Nancy talked with us about:

  • Why low broadcast production value impacts sports data management
  • How sports leagues and investors can leverage new data
  • The hard numbers behind the growth in women’s sports

The Data Famine in Women’s Professional Sports

One of the significant hurdles in data management in women's professional sports is the dearth of broadcast deals compared to the lucrative agreements their male counterparts have received.

According to a global survey in June 2021, 40% of respondents cited lack of media coverage as their reason for not engaging with women’s professional games or commentary.

Nancy highlighted this direct correlation between broadcast quality and data collection efficiency. 

"A lot of data collection happens from broadcasts. And so, if the quality is really low, the data collectors can’t actually pull that data." Nancy explained. "It's a big part of the ecosystem that causes that growth."

This deficiency creates a ripple effect, limiting the visibility and commercial viability of women's sports.

However, booming interest in women’s sports and exciting new data models have given Nancy renewed optimism for the future.

“It was frustrating. But now, there are lots of companies that are much more committed to collecting that data,” she said. “There are also lots of advancements in AI and computer vision, and the broadcast quality has gotten so much better.”


Luring New Investors With the Commercial Carrot

The conversation pivoted into how sports leagues and investors can utilize new data to drive growth and profitability. 

Nancy pointed out the distinct revenue models between men's and women's sports.

"Most of the men's [sports] revenue is coming from match day and broadcast revenue,” she noted. “Whereas the women, the revenue mix is dependent on commercial [deals] and prize money.”

Nancy postulated that because of this contrast, women athletes have become much more adept at self-promotion and brand partnerships. 

“They’ve gotten really, really good at social media and representing products. So they’re really good marketers." she said. “Even though the women athletes have far [fewer] followers, their engagement rate is twice what the men [see].”

Nancy illustrated the commercial potential with examples of recent high-value deals, such as Caitlin Clark’s $28 million contract with Nike

“Commercial revenue is a much more sustainable revenue source, much more controllable revenue source, for the women. That's really where women's sports focuses the most.”


Gauging the Growth in Women’s Professional Sports Fans

Nancy shared compelling figures that highlight the increasing popularity and financial potential of women's professional sports.

"Viewership across almost every league in women’s football is up,” she said. "UEFA (Champions League) reported an increase of 500 percent-plus or more in ticketing revenue and an 8X increase in match day revenue."

Nancy further explained that the commercial landscape is evolving with more brands investing in women's sports, driven by the higher engagement rates of female athletes.

“All of these things contributed to this movement where even several businesses have seen that if they want to get to women, they need to invest in women.”

She cited a striking statistic to reinforce her argument — for every dollar spent on sports merchandise in the U.S., 80 cents is spent by women.

“Brands are paying attention to that. You’re seeing a lot more brands that never came into sports before that are being big sponsors,” she said. “They understand there is so much power and influence in the female consumer when it comes to sports.”

Nancy is excited by the potential new revenue streams and viewers that this new data may reap. But ultimately, she’s hopeful that her data collection efforts will help shatter barriers for the women athletes of tomorrow.  

“If you don’t think women are important to sports, they’re absolutely important,” she stated. “It’s more than just about women’s sports. It’s about building a better world for our daughters and the next generations that want to play professionally. That’s what I think gets us all out of bed in the morning.”


Craving more? You can find this interview and many more by subscribing to Evolving Industry on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or here.

Want to learn more about leveraging your data? 

Let's Chat!

Contact Us!