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This is such a hot topic right now that you have to watch you don’t get singed if you’re not paying.

We all knew it was coming. Everybody has been talking about. And if you thought you’d wait to see what happens, you missed the bullet train to the hottest party in the world of sponsorship.

A quick look at some of the brands that have been leading the way in recent times:

  1. Momentum have been behind the Proteas Women’s Cricket team since 2013, and recently renewed their agreement for a further 2 seasons.
  2. Sasol has been a sponsor of women’s football for almost 12 years already. Their women’s football properties with SAFA includes the SA National Women’s Football Team, Banyana Banyana  and the Provincial Women’s Football League, called the Sasol League
  3. Hollywoodbets recently signed on as headline sponsor of the SAFA Women’s Super League – now called the Hollywoodbets Super League
  4. Imperial are proud sponsor to the Imperial Central Gauteng Lions Women, as well as the Imperial Women Saturday Premier League and Presidents League.
  5. Spar have been headline partner to Spar Proteas Netball for a number of years, and also sponsor the Spar Women’s Race and Grand prix which has been running for over 13 years.
  6. Telkom is the title sponsor of the Telkom Netball league. Netball SA is further supported by Twizza who signed a 5 year deal to help grow netball from the grassroots level.
  7. Investec champion their “Women in Sport” initiatives with hockey and golf, namely the St Mary’s Investec Hockey Festival and Investec South African Women’s Open.
  8. Tatjana Schoenmaker recently joined Team VISA ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Those that took the perceived “risk” early and stepped into unchartered, uncluttered territory to explore the power of women’s sport are quickly seeing the rewards. The power of women’s sport is having a snowball effect and is becoming unstoppable due to the flexible partnership opportunities allowing brands and rightsholders to align strategically to meet business objectives. There is momentum building to what will be the most commercially relevant and rewarding business tactic for years to come. Audiences are growing every day, and allegiances to brands are being built, so if you’re not yet in the game, you need to move quickly.

Some local viewership numbers clearly indicate that women’s sport was already growing across free-to-air and Pay TV channels in 2019. And more recently, the Hollywoodbets Super League on SABC saw record numbers tuning in to see our women in action with almost 2 million viewers per match in May this year.

Here is a closer look with data and insights provided by Nielsen Sports South Africa



Total unique audience by sport
  • 20 816 259 unique viewers watched women’s sport broadcasts over 12 months. The chart above includes cross-sport duplication i.e., viewers who watched Football may have also watched any of the other listed sports.
  • Football is the most watched sport with 13 458 662 unique viewers. Live coverage of the FIFA U/17 World Cup was the key driver.
  • 4 936 166 unique viewers exclusively watched the FIFA U/17 World Cup games on SABC 1.
  • *The Ladies Club sport magazine show on SABC 2 reached 6 694 523 viewers. This illustrates the capacity of the free to air platform to attract audiences irrespective of the broadcast format.



Share of TV coverage
  • 3 795 broadcast hours of women’s sport over 12 months.
  • Football accounts for 37% of the total number of broadcast hours. This is also seen when looking at total sport coverage, men and women.
  • The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup accounts for 71% (990 hours) of the total number of Football broadcast hours.
  • Netball accounts for 17% of the total number of broadcast hours, followed by Tennis (12%) and then Cricket (9%).
  • Overall, broadcasts on SuperSport accounts for 98% of the total number of broadcast hours, with broadcasts on SuperSport 3 and SuperSport 10 accounting for 32% of all SuperSport’s coverage. 

What does this tell us?

If women’s sport is broadcast, it will be watched.

Although football is a key driver, Netball, Cricket and Tennis also have a massive opportunity to attract new viewers, especially considering the upcoming World Cup & Olympic Games.

Which side of the fence are you on?

Sponsoring a team, an individual, an event, or a league will bring with it unparalleled story telling power. Sportswomen are more than just athletes. Many are moms, some are wives, they are all daughters, and they all have friends. They are everyday heroes on and off the field, and role models to those around them. They have the power to influence change and inspire a movement. Just look at Megan Rapinoe and the impact she has had. You want to get behind sportswomen, support them, encourage them and motivate them.

The stats are there. This is not a fly by night idea that is going to dissipate.  Research is being done all over the world and reports are coming in every day indicating that this is more than something someone said. Audiences are growing across all segments, and the more the visibility gap is closed (and it’s closing) the more we’ll all see the value of the investment. But if brands are comparing women’s sport to men’s sport using the same old measurement criteria and evaluation methods, then they’re missing the opportunity completely. The offering is entirely different, and the strategic approach to align cannot be a copy and paste from what you have done before. If you still don’t see it, then you need to reflect on how you have evolved over the last decade and how relevant you are?

So what do I think brands needs to remember when considering sponsorship of women’s sport?

  1. Your proposal evaluation methods may need to evolve. Assess the opportunity by looking at how you can leverage the relationship to deliver on your business objectives.
  2. Be prepared to work closely with the rightsholder to create a long-term plan that benefits you both. This is more than a sponsorship, it’s a partnership and should be for at least 3 years.
  3. Invest in good research. The exact information you need may not yet exist for a particular property so include research in your plans before you even start activating, so you can evaluate your investment and have the power to motivate internally to renew.
  4. Don’t under invest in activation and media support. You need to make these a priority to ensure your property is leveraged effectively and gains the necessary traction to continually grow. Your activation budget needs to be bigger than your sponsorship fees.
  5. Remember, all our star athletes started somewhere. Be part of their story. You don’t need to begin your sponsorship journey in women’s sport with elite athletes and national teams. Yes, they need the investment to properly professionalise their careers, but leagues, federations and sometimes the unexpected sporting codes could reap you equally beneficial reward.

If you’re still not sure where to start, contact me, and we’ll help sort that out very quickly.

Please feel free to send me any sponsorship news, facts or partnership insights to include in future articles. The more we share, the more we know and the more opportunity we have to learn from each other. GF

Title picture | South African athletes: Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Bongiwe Msomi, Desiree Ellis, Amanda Dlamini, Caitlin Rooskrantz, Kgothatso Montjane, Nosipho Mthembu, Marsha Cox, Anrune Weyers, Shabnim Ismail, Tatjana Schoenmaker, Zintle Mpupha

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