I recently had the pleasure of attending the SportsBusiness Journal’s Game Changers conference in New York. This compelling, one-day conference focused on the multiple ways in which women intersect with sports – including the advancement of women among professional sports organizations, targeting strategies for female fans and the growing visibility of professional female athletes.
Importantly, Game Changers took the time to recognize the contributions of 35 phenomenal women that are truly making a difference in the ever-changing world of sports. This year’s honorees are spearheading key initiatives across the industry and paving the way for female executives in the years to come. Here’s the official conference photo of these incredible women.
Game Changers also gave a platform for women to share their personal experiences in the sports world in a variety of roles, including as an athlete, agent, executive and fan. Panelists and presenters discussed the past and current state for women in sports, and shared varying views on where we’re headed in the future.
Here are a few key highlights and takeaways that resonated most with me from all the amazing content that was shared:
- “Women need to support women.” I found this compelling, particularly when considering leadership and mentoring within the sports industry.
- “If it doesn’t affect what goes on when on the field, it’s forgiven.” This was a somewhat startling revelation shared by Rich Luker (Luker on Trends Powered by ESPN Sports Poll). Luker has researched whether the conduct of professional athletes (including domestic violence, drug and animal abuse, among others) has impacted fan loyalty of athletes and teams. He’s concluded that as long as an athlete performs on the field, their indiscretions off the field are quickly forgiven.
- “Social media is the platform to tell our story.” It’s becoming increasingly important for athletes and organizations to go beyond the use of traditional media and embrace social media as the platform to communicate community and cause marketing initiatives. According to Jessica Berman, VP of Special Projects and Corporate Responsibility for the NHL, cause marketing provides a tremendous opportunity within leagues, teams and for individual players to do good while improving their brand image in the marketplace.
- “There’s never been a conflict between being diverse and hiring the best person.” Through the evolution of the Rooney Rule, an NFL policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs, there has been a slow but steady increase in the number of female and minority c-suite employees. The overwhelming theme of the conference was, “You cannot be successful in today’s business world without being diverse.”
- “You are the sum of all your training.” Under Armour executive Adrienne Lofton shared a compelling video of Michael Phelps illustrating the countless hours of training he does day and night to prepare for the Olympics. This lesson of preparedness can and should also be applied to women in the workforce, both in sports and beyond. A shared sentiment among the female c-suite was to “be prepared when you walk in the room” and “make sure you always contribute in meetings and make your voice heard.”
I think we can all appreciate the strides we see when it comes to women in sports. In fact, according to Luker, the most stable and growing group of sports fans are female fans, and the most concerning group of fans are males from the ages of 12-17. For the first time in history, we are seeing the sports world in a state of challenge. We are not losing people or dollars, we are losing passion among young male fans. When we lose passion, we know dollars is next and sports teams and organizations should be paying closer attention to the purchasing power of this new segment of female fans.
Game Changers provided a unique and interesting forum to examine women in sports in today’s world. I was excited to be a part of the energy and enthusiasm that this conference offered, to learn about the challenges the sports market is facing and to network with female executives from the NFL, NBA, MLS, WWE and NHL, among others.
The Game Changers conference was packed with attendees at every stage of their career, and each participant had something to learn and offer to fellow attendees. I’m looking forward to following the continuing contributions of the event honorees along with many other successful women in attendance as they strive to secure the fate of females with a career in sports for generations to come.
Capture Marketing is a public relations and events agency experienced in developing creative solutions on behalf of corporations, foundations, professional athletes and other celebrities. We believe that Doing Good is Good Business™ (DGIGB) and partner with our clients to advance their cause marketing initiatives.