This week, the Women’s Sport Trust, a UK charity focused on using the power of sport to accelerate gender equality and drive social change, published its latest research into the visibility and fandom of women’s sport in 2023.
The key statistic, from Futures Sport & Entertainment data and analysis, included record-breaking broadcast reach in the UK in 2023, with 46.7 million people tuning in to watch more than one minute of women’s sport on linear TV, adding almost a million more was then the previous one. high in 2019.
While women’s football dominated the ratings on free-to-air channels such as the BBC, it was golf that shone on pay TV, in this case Sky Sports. The Solheim Cup was the most watched women’s sport, with 3.1 million registrations for the singles matches on the final day. As you can see below, Day 2’s fourballs were also popular.
In print, the results weren’t as exciting when it came to women’s specific sports coverage, with just 3% of mentions in daily newspaper coverage in 2023, down from 4% in 2022.
Looking back at golf, one of the most interesting points from the report was the number of viewers. Of the 37.8 million viewers who watched more than three minutes of women’s sports in 2023, 271,000 did not watch men’s sports content. This amounts to 7% of the total reach of women’s sports.
A unique women’s golf audience
When we look at golf, more specifically, The Open versus the AIG Women’s Open, there is a clear difference with the average 7%. In fact, a whopping 57% (listed as 60% below) of people watching the AIG Women’s Open did not watch the men’s equivalent. A total of 731,000 viewers.
There’s a lot to digest from the three circles on this slide and the numbers surrounding the Solheim Cup. Regarding women’s golf, we know the following:
- The Solheim Cup generated a TV viewership nearly 2.5 times greater than the AIG Women’s Open.
- There is a large group of sports fans who only watched the AIG Women’s Open and not The Open.
- The potential to connect with the 5.9 million sports fans who watched The Open alone.
The results of this study also raised some questions. Who is this audience that only watched the AIG Women’s Open, how do we engage with them to convince them to move from watching a major golf event to attending a major golf event, and how do we increase the number female golf viewers outside the Solheim Cup?
Combining the above with previous research from the Women’s Sport Trust in partnership with The R&A, which found there were 2.5 million avid women’s golf fans, it shows that the opportunity to grow the women’s golf audience, both on TV and in person, is there . for the taking.
What are the next steps?
First, we need to better understand the AIG Women’s Open-only audience. My take on this is that this audience is most likely part of the wider community of female sports fans, which is constantly growing, which in turn means there will likely be a higher proportion of female viewers compared to The Open.
Engaging this audience could be a key driver for increasing attendance at women’s golf events such as the AIG Women’s Open, which provides a perfect setting for everyone’s first experience of watching live golf thanks to the new festival fan village, greater access to watching matches and family-friendly nature of the event. By using event ideas that have worked in other sports such as netball, football and rugby, the current offering could be expanded.
Secondly, an easier target audience for women’s golf is the audience that already watches men’s golf like The Open. Increasing the visibility of the AIG Women’s Open at this event via TV, social media and at the Major itself could actively convert those who would not normally watch. Think along the lines of a teaser trailer of what will come a month later.
I’m not one to pit the men against the women either, but this year we’re still close enough to 150 in St. Andrewse Open to use as traction to gain wider exposure for the AIG Women’s Open.
Third, creating a marketing campaign for women’s golf around the Solheim Cup. The biennial event is the most watched women’s golf event, bigger than the Majors. A perfect time to use the increased exposure and attention to the women’s game to create a campaign that goes beyond the event and gives viewers a reason to tune in for future tour events and Majors.
The future of women’s golf really does look bright and once we gain a better understanding of who is actually watching women’s golf, we as an industry can better target marketing campaigns to attract more viewers, increase the number of events and ultimately grow the women’s golf fan base.
View the full Women’s Sport Trust report – Visibility Uncovered 2023 – The Year in Review here.