Sponsorship value and profile of top female athletes soars with ‘unique window of equality’ created by the Olympic Games

Almost half (47%) of the general population across 13 countries studied have an interest in the Olympic Games, making it the world’s most engaged with sporting event

This includes 45% of females, demonstrating the level of interest women have in the Games

Predicted female medallists for Tokyo 2020 sharing double the number of sponsored posts in the first half of 2021 than in 2020 has led to an 83% increase in partner engagement

In comparison, although sponsored posts by male medal hopes has increased, engagement levels have fallen during the same period

Creates huge opportunity for sponsors of female athletes to connect with female sports fans, especially for brands such as Athleta, who promote gender equality

Team GB medal hopeful Dina Asher-Smith has gained almost half a million followers in last 12 months and generated over 2.7 million engagements

Nielsen Sports, the global leader in sports industry analytics, has today released analysis which highlights the ‘unique window of equality’ in sport that the Olympic Games provides, creating increased opportunities for both female athletes and their brand partners to capitalise on.

The unique nature of the Olympics creates a level playing field for male and female athletes, with equality across the competition, the medals being awarded and, crucially, the exposure provided by broadcasters and sponsors. And this gender equality on the field is mirrored by the audience at home. The Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event on the planet in terms of audience engagement, with Nielsen Fan Insight data showing that a huge 47% of the general population (across 13 countries studied) have an interest in the Games, with this remaining at 45% when looking at female interest levels only.

The global attention the Games brings has contributed to a significant increase in social media followings and engagements for the leading female athletes. For example, in the last 12 months across Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, Great Britain’s star sprinter, Dina Asher-Smith, gained over 438k followers and generated over 2.7M engagements.

When looking at value provided to sponsors specifically, the Nielsen analysis reveals that among the predicted female medallists for Tokyo 2020 with the largest social media followings, there have been almost double the number of posts with sponsors in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. This has resulted in a huge 83% increase in engagements for partners on these posts. In comparison, among the top 15 expected male medallists, there has been an increase in the number of posts but engagement numbers for partners have decreased.

Part of the explanation for the high engagement rates for female athletes may lie in the fact that, as Nielsen Fan Insights shows, 66% of US Olympic fans say they are passionate about gender equality, and this is an issue appearing regularly on the social feeds of leading female athletes. For example, US track star Allyson Felix and gymnastics sensation Simone Biles recently moved from Nike to partner with Athleta, a brand that aims to “empower women and girls.”

Instagram posts from Simone and Allyson mentioning Athleta have, on average, generated two to three times more engagement and value than other branded posts on their Instagram accounts this year, with social conversations around the Biles-Athleta partnership topping 10,000 as of June 16.

However, whilst sponsorship rates and values amongst female athletes are increasing, they still make up a very small proportion of the sponsorship market, meaning there remains a huge amount of potential for brands to untap.

Nielsen Sports Global Leader of Women’s Sport and Head of Brands (UK), Lynsey Douglas, commented: “Our data, compiled across 35 countries around the world, demonstrates the incredible enthusiasm there is for the Games amongst both male and female audiences. It also shows how female Olympians are successfully reaching and engaging with audiences – proof of what can happen when they are given an equal platform.

“And whilst the value of sponsorships for female athletes is growing, they still make up a far smaller proportion of the total sponsorship market, with male athletes taking the lion’s share. What this data tells us is that there is plenty of additional potential that sponsors can tap in to by creating authentic, meaningful partnerships with female athletes.”

For more information about Nielsen Sports visit www.nielsensports.com

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