Rounding out the top 10: tennis stars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, followed by golfer Lexi Thompson; tennis player Leyla Fernandez; college basketball player Hanna Cavinder; footballer Ali Krieger; basketball star Sue Bird, tennis player Venus Williams; and college gymnast Olivia Dunne.
On the brand side, the report revealed that Nike, Gatorade, Coca-Cola, Ally Financial and Adidas were the top five female sponsors, with Nike being the top sponsor among professional and college athletes. Financial brands, which are already the most active sponsorship category among women’s sports, including MasterCard and Ally, increased their sponsorship game by 30%, followed by apparel and media to round out the top three verticals.
The report appears to reinforce early data from Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) agreements showing that female college athletes outperform their male counterparts in engagement. But the same thing happens in professional sports for several reasons. The first is that brands including Ally and Michelob Ultra have pledged to equalize spending across sports. Another is that brands are driven by data, and female athletes and teams are a good testing ground for campaigns. Big events like the retirements of Bird and Williams, and the football season now in full swing, have naturally caught the attention of brands.
In addition to being heavily followed on social media, women’s sports are also attracting real fans in record numbers. All 25 WNBA games this season have seen a 16% increase in viewership compared to 2021— the highest in 15 years. Overseas, the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 tournament, held in England last July, set new attendance records both for a single game (87,192) and for the whole tournament (574,875).
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