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Broadcasting & Cable
Broadcasting & Cable
Jon Lafayette

GroupM To Double Ad Spending On Women’s Sports Programming

Caitlin Clark scores.

Giant media buyer GroupM said it plans to double its media spending on women’s sports.

Sports continue to get big ratings on TV and women’s sports have been gaining viewers. 

GroupM said it will be forming a marketplace dedicated to women’s sports and will be looking for first-look and first-to-market opportunities beginning with the 2024-25 upfront, with clients including adidas, Ally, Coinbase, Discovery, Google, Mars, Nationwide, Unilever and Universal Pictures participating.

“Our industry has seen the incredible impact of investing in women’s sports over the last several years, but even with continued momentum, women’s sports investments only comprise a mere fraction of total media spend in sports,” said Matt Sweeney, chief investment officer at GroupM U.S. “Starting with this year’s Upfront negotiations, our team will procure elevated opportunities that are a win-win for our advertisers. GroupM advertisers have challenged the marketplace to flip the script on how to invest in women’s sports, and they will continue to play a pivotal role moving forward.”

The effort was kicked off by Ally chief marketing and PR officer Andrea Brimmer, who asked GroupM to establish an advertising marketplace for women’s sports.

“Creating a dedicated marketplace for women’s sports beginning at this year’s Upfront marks a significant step forward in driving real impact in the business of women’s sports,” said Brimmer. “At Ally, we dreamed about reimagining the investment approach so we could drive systemic change in the way women’s sports media is bought and sold. And, today, through the leadership of GroupM and their many clients across industries, this dream is becoming a reality.”

Interest in women’s sports started to gain traction about three years ago, Martin Blich, executive director, Sports and Live Investment, GroupM U.S., told Broadcasting+Cable.

Leagues like the WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League have recently signed new television rights deal and are open to new sponsorship opportunities.

Women’s college basketball drew a huge audience when Caitlin Clark of Iowa broke the college scoring record.

“The Caitlin Clark effect has been very good for women’s sports, but that's not to say that that's where that ends," Blich said. 

Over the next 10 years, he expects more women athletes to set records. “We’re going to see more and more growth within women’s sports because of that.”

Blich said that nearly all categories that currently advertise in men’s sports could sponsor women’s sports as well.

“Women’s sports is a natural place for Unilever’s brands to show up, and we have been increasing our investments in this space for years,” said Aaron Sobol, Head of Media Investment U.S., at Unilever.We’re thrilled to see audience engagement and marketer investment increasing and for the media buying opportunities to continue to mature. We are very supportive of this effort by GroupM and the sports marketplace to drive simplicity for marketers investing in women’s sports.” 

Advertising in women’s sports paid off for GroupM client adidas. Commercials featuring female athletes were 69% more effective than the brand’s average ad on broadcast and cable in 2023, according to research and analytics company EDO.

Overall, advertising in women’s sports drives positive brand impact and increased ad effectiveness, EDO found.

“Beyond prioritizing investing in women’s sports as a whole, we need to challenge the way advertising and sponsorship packages are bought and sold,” said Blich added.  We hope our commitment will help brands execute a more holistic investment strategy centered around audience, while increasing overall sports advertising.”

Some GroupM clients have been advertising in women’s sports for some time. 

“In the spring of 2021, Nationwide became the exclusive insurance partner of the National Women's Soccer League,” said Sara Sorce, associate VP, media, at Nationwide. 

“Since then, we’ve expanded our relationship with a multiyear extension. We are thrilled to see the support of women’s sports reimagined with the creation of a women’s sports dedicated marketplace,” Sorce said. “As a former female athlete, I believe that investment in women’s sports reaches far beyond the field–creating leaders and fostering diversity. Nationwide is proud to partner on leading the way to scale women’s sports opportunities and overall representation in the media landscape”

Clients of all GroupM media agencies -- Mindshare, Wavemaker and EssenceMediacom -- will be able to participate in this year’s dedicated women’s sports marketplace, GroupM said.

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