I spent the last 2 days in Tucson, Arizona as a guest at the ESPN W. event. I was asked to be part of a conversation on women and technology and given the audience was made up of sports marketers and female athletes, I felt it was a good opportunity to evangelize Sugar, specifically our FitSugar brand. I entered the event as a curious participant. Earlier this week I left the event educated, inspired and ever-more motivated. Here’s why:
Just under 40 years ago, title IX was passed, increasing more athletic opportunities for females. Over the course of the last few days I’ve had the privilege of spending time with some of the greatest female athletes in the world as well as leaders in the women’s sporting industry, who have benefited from this amendment. The sad truth of it is though, for all the advances there have been, there is still a tremendous road for women and girls to travel. To point, the income gap between male and female athletes is not just a gap, it is a grand canyon-like hole. Many of these athletes are struggling to make ends meet, while trying to achieve their dreams and raise a family. I heard stories from Olympic swimmers earning $10 a day to track and field record holders struggling to financially survive vs. have the ability solely focus on their game. Shouldn’t great athletes have the privilege of simply practicing their sport? Can’t we, the business leaders, help deliver for them on the business front? The sacrifices these women make every day to fuel their passion and their dreams and more personally, pave the road for my daughter, is intense and inspiring at the same time. The work of those behind the movement is monumental, but 39 years later, we are still only at the beginning. Why does the general population rally (and spend) around men’s sporting events but only nod gracefully at women? Why aren’t we more aware and excited about these events? Clearly if the demand was there, the money would be there too.
It takes business leaders and corporations to make a difference. They bring sponsorship money. They can evangelize. They can bring awareness. They can build a brand. One interesting component that could have been added to this amazing event was business leaders, from outside the women’s sporting industry, educating and challenging the business and these women to think differently. From spending time with the various commissioners of the women’s leagues coupled with some of the sport industry leadership, it is clear there is a desire for a fresh approach to the marketplace and a thirst to explore new ideas and platforms. One thought may be to not compete in the established world of men’s sports but to create a new experience for viewing. Instead of negotiating with the currently established sports world for air time, money and mindshare, why not explore new avenues and new platforms to reach a new audience. With the percent of women spending time online, watching video, spending time on social networks and playing games online, there potentially could be an opportunity to build demand in the digital marketplace, attracting mass audience and loyalty. With limited regulation, limited rights issues, viral madness, and an already plugged in audience - where the next generation of viewers is spending the bulk of their time today – digital could be THE platform for women’s sporting events.
I have the blessing of working for Sugar, Inc., a company that reaches 22 Million Monthly Unique Users – all women. We focus on developing positive experiences for women to engage and connect with each other be it through our content, communities or commerce. I’ve worked in the digital space longer than I can think about. My husband and I own a local business and I am a mom. I have the assets both personally and professionally to make a difference in getting my community and my family excited about women’s sports. This conference was an awakening experience for me and I am motivated to leverage what I have to make a difference. I am committed to helping build awareness and engagement with the PopSugar platforms and our sports marketing partners such as Nike and New Balance coupled with working locally on a grass roots agenda to fuel the passion through my local team and community. I am motivated.
Thank you ESPN W. for inviting me to participate in this wonderful event and for allowing me the opportunity to be part of this very important discussion.