Business Opportunities in Women’s Sports

What are the connections between women’s sports and the world of business and entrepreneurship?

For decades, women’s sports have sat in the shadow of men’s leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and others that have been primary sources of American entertainment.

But now we’re seeing a shift where in some cases, most notably with the recent NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament, the women athletes are getting just as much, if not more attention than their male counterparts!

Athletes like Caitlin Clark are showing that women do not need to imitate male athletes. Instead, they are paving the way for future female athletes and entrepreneurs to play to their own unique strengths and see their potential in sports and in business.

After her success in the last several years playing in the NCAA, Caitlin Clark most recently was drafted by the Indiana Fever and signed a $28 million endorsement deal with Nike. While some critics of the Nike deal complain that Clark is still underpaid compared to male endorsement deals in the NBA, the deal is likely a stepping stone to larger endorsement deals down the road and more attention created for a league that has largely been the very little sister of the NBA.

Instead of trying to be like prominent male basketball players, Clark has largely relied on her sharpshooting ability and clean form to make a name for herself. Instead of trying to imitate the men and complain that sports fans do not treat them the same, female athletes are finding that what attracts more attention to their leagues may be found in playing to their feminine strengths.

So how does all of this attention on Caitlin Clark start to shift the conversation around women in business and women in sports entertainment in particular?

Like a lot of things in business, it’s usually about the money. The more eyeballs you can have, the more attention you can garner, the more ad dollars you can sell and the more you can invest back into the business.

Before, the business conversation in women’s sports used to be that we should invest money into women’s leagues, not necessarily because it makes financial sense because of that particular league’s business model or profitability, but because the next generation of women deserve athletes and role models to look up to. Now the conversation is shifting. Why can’t we have female athletes that are role models for young women that also are prolific entertainers in their own right? Why should female sports leagues be relegated to imitating longer-standing men’s leagues when the best path for them might look like venturing in a completely different direction?

Just look at the way female athletes showed up to the WNBA draft this year. They didn’t wear suits and they didn’t wear hoodies. Instead, they showed up wearing custom looks and designs you might see at the Oscars. Who would have thought? Women can get more attention by playing into their strengths instead of trying to look just like the men!

When the focus for athletes like Caitlin Clark is excellence and competition rather than arguing why they should be making as much as male athletes, the attention seems to come their direction. And with the advent of NIL deals for college athletes, other stars like gymnast Livvy Dunne are seeing a broad reach that goes far beyond anyone who watches her gymnastics meets. These female influencers and athletes are only focusing on the things that they can control, and it is paying off big time.

So with all this attention shifting to leagues like NCAA Women’s Basketball and the WNBA, what does this mean for other opportunities for women in sports?

It means more opportunities for female announcers, coaches, agents, attorneys, and influencers to capitalize on the shift in sports entertainment. And some women haven’t even waited for the shift. Instead they are the ones doing the shifting!

Becky Hammon was Assistant Coach for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs with Greg Popovich and was the first female to serve as Head Coach during an NBA game before she joined the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces as their Head Coach. Coaching has historically been the reverse, with many women’s sports coaching positions being held by men but not vice versa.

Prominent actresses like Natalie Portman have taken to investing in women’s sports. Portman founded the Angel City FC in 2020. More investors are taking the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and anticipate further demand in women’s sports like soccer and basketball. Brittany Mahomes, wife of Kansas City Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes, has also invested into the Kansas City Current, pouring money from an NFL family back into women’s soccer.

Even Jalen Hurts, Quarterback of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, has Nicole Lynn as his agent. Nicole helped him secure his recent 5 year, $255,000,000 contract with the team. Hurts also employs a largely female media relations and marketing team.

Endorsement deals, investors, and advertising revenue is helping to pave the way for more opportunities in women’s sports down the road.

And one of the most interesting things is, while men’s sports tend to have a lot of competition and overlapping leagues (think NFL, NCAA Football, USFL, XFL, High School Football, Arena Football), women’s sports have a lot of opportunity for expansion within their own gender’s demographic. The more women continue to capitalize on entertainment and excellence, the more of these opportunities will continue to open up in the future.

So finally, what does all of this mean for the business world and entrepreneurship? For the first time, maybe ever, women’s sports don’t fall into the “charity sponsorship” category on a broad scale. We are not talking subsidizing women’s leagues with the profits from men’s leagues. We are talking about a sustainable and high-profit-potential new era of sports with women playing a significant role in creating new business opportunities.

Now is the time to form that corporation you have been thinking about in order to seize the business opportunities that women’s sports offers. Contact us here if you want to learn more about how we can help you get your organization going!