The Collective’s new research study quantifies the pay gap between men and women athletes while detailing the impact women athletes have on their fan bases. Women athletes cultivate a deeply loyal fanbase that is educated, financially empowered and willing to take action. The report gives brands a clear rationale for driving significant impact through women athlete partnerships.

Women athlete partnerships – about the study

This study illustrates how consumer sentiment and behaviour influence the commercial value of professional women athletes. It is split into three sections:

  1. Level setting on the pay gap: How the market currently values professional women athletes, on and off the field of play
  2. The impact of women athletes: How women athletes influence fan behaviour and brand metrics
  3. A new approach to women athlete partnerships: Providing strategies for how to participate in the new economy of sports

Key takeaways from the study

1. Level setting on the pay gap

  • On average, men earn 21x more playing salary than women athletes, despite a recent rise in salaries and prize money
  • Limited on-field earning means that women depend on sponsorship and endorsements 2x more than men do
  • 90% of partnership fees are directed to men athletes

2. The impact of women athletes

  • Professional women athletes are conduits to next-generation fans with spending power – Women’s sports fans are younger, more educated and more affluent than men’s sports fans
  • There is mainstream interest in women’s sports among a desirable audience; 86% of general sports fans are interested in women’s sports. Women’s sports fans are a balanced mix of men and women.
  • Fans of women athletes are interested in them outside of their sport (e.g. lifestyle, fashion, behind-the-scenes content etc.), and more so than fans of male athletes (72% v 45%)
  • Fans of women athletes are moved to take action – 75% of women’s sports fans believe that teams, leagues, and athletes should support social causes
  • Sportswomen have emerged as a powerful force in advocacy and activism – 89% of women’s sports fans are more likely to have been inspired by an athlete to take some form of social action
  • Fans of women athletes are more receptive to brands and sponsors – 54% are more aware of sponsors and 45% are more willing to consider or purchase from sponsor brands compared to fans of men’s sports
  • Compared to men, women athletes are seen as more trustworthy, inspirational, and role models
  • Whilst men tend to have much bigger social followings, women athletes drive 2x the engagement
  • When brands are associated with women athletes they benefit from enhanced perception, reflecting the characteristics that consumers value most
  • Highly engaged followers of women athletes drive brand awareness, share content and recommend products

3. A new approach to women athlete partnerships

The value proposition associated with women athletes is markedly different than that of men athletes:

  • Reduce gender bias and focus on how and where women athletes are making the greatest impact by implementing a data-led strategy
  • Deviate from conventional funding models and consider a collaborative approach to partnership
  • Understand impact and visibility will continue to build over time
  • By placing value on women athletes as conduits to social purpose, commercial partners can make a difference in the areas that matter most to consumers
  • Social media stands alone when it comes to consumer engagement with women athletes
  • Powerful media dollars can drive partnership value by building awareness among new fans in untapped markets

Download the women athlete partnerships report, here.

Need help in identifying women athlete partnerships?

If you’re looking for advice from sports sponsorship agencies, Strive Sponsorship can help. Contact us for sponsorship, commercial, content, media, operations, investment, and communications consultancy services.

Frequently asked questions

What companies sponsor women athletes?

There are a wide variety of brands that sponsor women athletes, with new deals being announced every week. Examples include Gucci’s partnership with England football star Leah Williamson, Lucy Bronze’s partnership with both Pepsi and Visa, Vitality’s sponsorship of England Netball, and Nike’s sponsorships with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), Women’s Big Bash League (Cricket), Netball and the LPGA, and more than 60 athletes – to name a few.

Who sponsors the Women’s Premier League?

England’s Women’s Super League is sponsored by Barclays, EA Sports, and Nike. Barclays is the title partner of the league.

Who sponsors women’s football in the UK?

Barclays, EA Sports, and sponsor the Women’s Super League, England’s top professional women’s football league. Barclays also sponsor the women’s FA Cup. Xero and Google Pixel are sponsors of the England Women’s National team. Nationwide also sponsor ITV’s coverage of the Lionesses 2023 World Cup games.