Sports publishers are making more money off women’s sports

Sports media companies are taking advantage of a growing audience and advertiser interest in women’s sports — particularly on the eve of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Through its B/R Football vertical, Bleacher Report has booked more ad revenue from the women’s 2019 FIFA World Cup than the men’s edition last summer, according to Bleacher Report CEO Howard Mittman. The executive declined to share a specific revenue figure but said “it’s not insignificant.” (A Bleacher Report spokesperson later added that ad revenue from the Women’s World Cup is 10% higher than the men’s tournament last year.)

“If you think about it in the context of the portfolio of brands that we have, it’s a meaningful contributor, particularly in [the second quarter] and the summer, which can be kind of slow,” Mittman added. “What we saw last year around the men’s World Cup is going to pale in comparison to the enthusiasm and national pride this year’s World Cup is going to bring.”

And advertisers want to get involved. Bleacher Report’s advertising clients for the World Cup includes Adidas, Hulu, Nike, PlayStation and Volkswagen, Mittman said. A lot of the work Bleacher Report does with advertisers and the World Cup will be tied to video and social content the publisher produces both on-site in France as well as here in the U.S. This includes an after-match interview series hosted by former U.S. soccer goalkeeper and gold medalist Hope Solo, as well as a social series in which B/R Football will recreate goal celebrations. Bleacher Report’s World Cup programming will be distributed on B/R Football, across other owned social channels such as House of Highlights, and Bleacher Report’s own mobile app and the B/R Live streaming service. Bleacher Report also plans to host a watch party at the Eventi Hotel in Manhattan, complete with a 50-foot TV screen, for the U.S.’s match against Thailand.

“We are trying to own this moment,” Mittman said. “The Women’s National Team has created a World Cup dynasty; this as powerful as the Dream Team.”

Bleacher Report is not alone in drawing more interest from advertisers heading into the Women’s World Cup. Fox Sports, which owns U.S. broadcast rights to both the men’s and women’s World Cups, said advertiser interest in the tournament has grown considerably since the last tournament in 2015, according to a source familiar with the matter. In 2015, Fox Sports reportedly generated $40 million in ad revenue, which was more than double the initial estimates of $17 million and was driven by the U.S. women’s team winning the tournament.

This summer, Fox Sports’ advertising efforts will be boosted by a title-defending U.S. team that is expected to go far — a year after the men’s U.S. soccer team failed to even qualify for their World Cup. Top sponsors for Fox Sports’s coverage this year include Coca-Cola, Volkswagen and Verizon.

While the FIFA Women’s World Cup remains a top event on the sports calendar, women’s sports and female athletes broadly are getting more coverage from all types of sports media outlets.

In January, Overtime launched OvertimeWBB for women’s basketball content after the sports media startup acquired a platform called SheHoops last fall. On Instagram, OvertimeWBB has more than 223,000 followers and is generating 6.4 million video views per month, according to Overtime. While that channel remains Overtime’s home for women’s basketball videos, the content is also often shared across Overtime’s main Instagram channel, which has 1.7 million followers. Overtime is also producing video features on female basketball players, including one feature on Jada Williams releasing next week, according to Overtime co-founder Zack Weiner.

Overtime’s investment in women’s basketball is also helping the business. For instance, on May 18, Overtime hosted an all-day event in Brooklyn that was sponsored by Converse. As part of the day’s programming, Overtime hosted both an all-girls’ basketball tournament and an all-boys’ basketball tournament, both of which packed the venue at a capacity of 500 people. A thousand OvertimeWBB-branded t-shirt and hoodie were sold out within 30 minutes of being released in May, said Overtime co-founder Dan Porter.

“It’s a testament to how big the brand of these [female] players have been growing and how much swagger they play with,” Weiner said.

Looking ahead, Overtime is in conversations with advertisers to do more branded work tied to women’s basketball; the company also aims to expand to women’s soccer by the end of the year, Weiner said.

Bleacher Report, too, is planning to increase the amount of content it produces that center on women’s sports and female athletes, Mittman said.

“Women’s sports isn’t women’s sports — it’s just sports,” said Mittman. “The commitment we have to continue developing connections with and opportunities for women in sports is both intentional and increasing. It’s a significant focus area for us, not just because it makes sense financially but also because it’s the kind of brand we want to be.”

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