August 22, 2023
What Marketers Can Learn From Investments in Women’s Sports
Last week, some members of our Luquire team had the privilege to attend the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s quarterly meeting which focused on the importance of investing in women’s sports. The presentation included a panel of thought leaders – and doers – whose organizations, which included Ally Financial, NASCAR and Luquire client Charlotte Sports Foundation, have made concrete commitments to improving equity between men’s and women’s sports.
And while marketing and women’s sports may seem disparate, we saw some major throughlines in these experts’ insights, many of which have also helped propel some of our most ambitious client work:
Authenticity drives everything – We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: authenticity matters. And the panelists agreed: When committing to achieving DE&I goals, consumers are more adept than ever at identifying a brand’s true values – and calling it out when it falls short.
Charlotte Sports Foundation Executive Director Danny Morrison spoke specifically to the responsibility his organization felt creating the Jumpman Invitational, the first-ever college basketball tournament to create a completely equal player experience for both the men’s and women’s teams, and an arena where many organizations have fallen short (and, subsequently been called out, such as the NCAA for its disparities between its men’s and women’s tournaments). Morrison noted that walking the walk come gametime – including ensuring the locker rooms, player spaces and swag were completely equal for the men’s and women’s teams – was just as important as the feel-good equitable ethos driving the tournament.
We’ve seen this become more and more true in marketing as well. A core component of both our 2023 Trends Report and the foundation of our “For Real, Visit North Carolina” campaign for longtime client Visit NC, authenticity should be the North Star for marketers everywhere – which is why developing a client’s brand identity and platform is a critical first step. Without values in place to guide decision-making and marketing strategy, brands can fall prey to in-the-moment decisions that are misaligned with their desired strategic direction (the recent Bud Light controversy is a perfect example of this).
Be Bold – Another key element the panelists discussed was the importance of taking “bold steps” to action and serving as a robust “change agent” when committing to a cause.
Panelist Stephanie Marciano, head of sports entertainment marketing at Ally, touted the brand’s 50/50 media pledge, a five-year initiative to reach parity across its paid media spending for men’s and women’s sports, as a bold – and even at times uncomfortable – decision. Ally chose to dive headfirst into a marketing strategy that more closely aligned with its core value of “Do it right.” And as a result, the brand is now reaping the benefits, with brand likeability and preference up 25% and 20%, respectively.
Our team has seen firsthand the benefits – including financial – of investing in women. More than half of Luquire’s team of directors are women (as is our President, Stephanie Spicer) – and last year we saw one of our best years ever financially with more than 40% revenue growth.
At Luquire, we’ve also elevated the idea of boldness, even coining the phrase “uncomfortably ambitious” as our motto and guiding light when it comes to our work and talent. Take our latest humor-driven “The Better Choice” campaign for OrthoCarolina and cheeky “Practice Good Habits in All Habitats” campaign for Outdoor NC. Both campaigns leaned aggressively into humor in marketing categories where content most often takes on a serious or sentimental tone. Both of these clients have uncomfortably ambitious goals of their own and recognize that meeting or exceeding these goals may require unconventional, out-of-the-box steps.
Partner for a purpose – The panelists also spoke on the importance of developing purposeful partnerships with brands to reach their goals more efficiently. For instance, Marciano and fellow panelist Morrison highlighted the Ally-CSF partnership announced earlier this year, the Ally Tipoff, which will take place this November. The Ally Tipoff is CSF’s newest high-profile event featuring the women’s basketball teams from the University of Iowa and Virginia Tech dedicated to both brands’ mutual dedication to promoting women’s sports in Charlotte and beyond.
We know that reaching consumers is harder than ever, with upwards of 8,000 ads reaching consumers every day. But by marrying the values, personalities and authenticity of two brands, you gain the ability to catalyze a new perspective and breakthrough message sharing your company’s values and activate those partnerships in a way that drives change.
Our Presidents Cup client is a great example of a brand that understood the impact of partnerships, both from a consumer perspective and as a change agent. While the Cup was a record-setting success for myriad reasons, Executive Director Adam Sperling and his team’s commitment to ensuring local representation across this world-class event paved the way for one of the city’s best-received events in recent memory. These partnerships included on-course development of local food and entertainment area mimicking Charlotte neighborhoods, a merchandise collaboration with Charlotte outfitter 704 Shop and a philanthropic commitment to nonprofits focused on boosting economic opportunity across Charlotte. Each partnership appealed to a different, diverse audience segment allowing the PGA TOUR to engage and capture nontraditional golf fans.
The event lasted just an hour, and these insights were only the tip of the iceberg on the lessons marketers glean from investing in women’s sports. Perhaps the simplest insight visible across all was the idea that a rising tide raises all ships – brands that lean into their authentic identity and deliberately seek to promote their values through their marketing strategies are likely to see dividends in their bottom line. Or as Morrison put it, “It’s simple math.”
Photo provided by Charlotte Regional Business Alliance