GroupM, a major media buyer, announced plans to quadruple its media investment on women’s sports.

Sports continue to receive high ratings on television, while women’s sports have gained popularity.

GroupM announced that it will create a marketplace dedicated to women’s sports, looking for first-look and first-to-market opportunities beginning with the 2024-25 upfront, with clients including adidas, Ally, Coinbase, Discovery, Google, Mars, Nationwide, Unilever, and Universal Pictures.

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“Our industry has seen the incredible impact of investing in women’s sports over the last several years, but even with continued momentum, women’s sports investments only comprise a mere fraction of total media spend in sports,” said Matt Sweeney, chief investment officer at GroupM U.S. “Beginning with this year’s Upfront negotiations, our team will secure elevated opportunities that benefit our advertisers. GroupM advertisers have challenged the industry to change the way it invests in women’s sports, and they will continue to play an important role in the future.”

Andrea Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing and public relations officer, spearheaded the endeavor, requesting that GroupM create an advertising marketplace for women’s sports.

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“Creating a dedicated marketplace for women’s sports beginning at this year’s Upfront marks a significant step forward in driving real impact in the business of women’s sports,” Mr. Brimmer added. “At Ally, we envisioned rethinking the investment strategy in order to promote systemic change in the way women’s sports media is purchased and sold. And today, thanks to the leadership of GroupM and their many clients across industries, this goal is becoming a reality.

Martin Blich, executive director, Sports and Live Investment, GroupM U.S., told Broadcasting+Cable that interest in women’s sports began to grow three years ago.

Leagues such as the WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League have recently inked new television rights agreements and are looking for new sponsorship options.

Caitlin Clark of Iowa shattered the college scoring record, attracting a large audience to women’s college basketball.

“The Caitlin Clark effect has been very good for women’s sports, but that’s not to say that that’s where that ends,” Blich went on to remark.

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He predicts that more female athletes will achieve records during the next ten years. “We’re going to see more and more growth within women’s sports because of that.”

According to Blich, practically every category that now advertises in men’s sports might also support women’s sports.

“Women’s sports is a natural place for Unilever’s brands to show up, and we have been increasing our investments in this space for years,” said Aaron Sobol, Head of Media Investment U.S. at Unilever. “We are excited to see increased audience engagement and marketer investment, as well as the maturation of media buying opportunities. We strongly appreciate GroupM and the sports marketplace’s efforts to simplify the marketing process for women’s sports.

Adidas, a GroupM customer, saw positive results from advertising in women’s sports. According to research and analytics firm EDO, commercials featuring female athletes were 69% more effective than the brand’s average ad on broadcast and cable in 2023.

Overall, EDO discovered that advertising in women’s sports has a favorable brand impact and increases ad effectiveness.

“Beyond prioritizing investing in women’s sports as a whole, we need to challenge the way advertising and sponsorship packages are bought and sold,” Blich said in a statement. We hope that our commitment will assist brands in implementing a more holistic investment plan focusing on audience, while improving total sports advertising.”

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Some GroupM clients have been advertising in women’s sports for a while.

“In the spring of 2021, Nationwide became the exclusive insurance partner of the National Women’s Soccer League,” said Sara Sorce, associate vice president of media at Nationwide.

“Since then, we’ve extended our partnership for multiple years. We are happy to see women’s sports support redefined with the establishment of a specific marketplace,” Sorce stated. “As a former female athlete, I feel that investing in women’s sports goes well beyond just developing leaders and promoting diversity. Nationwide is happy to collaborate in leading the way to grow up women’s sports possibilities and general representation in the media landscape.”

This year’s dedicated women’s sports marketplace will be open to clients of all GroupM media agencies, including Mindshare, Wavemaker, and EssenceMediacom, according to GroupM.