Top 5 Take Aways: Social Media & Women’s Sports

20 10 2009

Social Media Pic_iStock_000009648196XSmall

On Monday, October 19 I took part in the Tucker Center Distinguished Lecture Series on The Impact of Social Media on Women’s Sports-which you can view in its entirety here. There were so many great ideas  and critical thinking from so many perspectives that I’m still processing, but here are my Top 5 as of now.

1. Women’s sport marketing & promotions have always been viral and no one is really sure how to measure return on investment. Social media should be about building relationships and you can’t always measure the impact of relationship building.  (@DigitalMaxwell, Dr. Heather Maxwell)

2. The success of female sports journalists depends on the success of women’s sports, but half of female sport journalists surveyed don’t feel a responsibility to cover women’s sports. They don’t want to be pigeon-holed.(@mariahardinpsu, Dr. Marie Hardin)

3. Is it fair to place the burden of marketing & promoting women’s sports on the shoulders of the female athletes-especially those in “non-traditional” sports like ice hockey? Is this the new model we are left with as social media envelops traditional sport media (where female athletes get 6-8% of the coverage)? (@angelaruggiero, Angela Ruggiero, US Women’s National Ice Hockey Team)

4. Interest in women’s sport is being measured by “click throughs” in online editions of newspapers & websites. So if people don’t click on women’s sport stories, it is interpreted as “non interest”. Those who support women’s sports have to CLICK the stories that we can find!  (Rachel Blount, Sports Columnist, Star Tribune)

5. Time remains to take control of social media and use it effectively to grow women’s sports, but time is running out (Rachel Blount, Sports Columnist, Star Tribune)

If you watched it what were your thoughts?





See & Hear Game Footage of the LFL Now!

15 09 2009

lfl_logo“Serious” game footage of “beautiful football” from the Lingerie Football League replete with (sexist) commentary of male sportscasters now available! (Scroll down about half a page to the video section and click on “Week 1: Chicago v. Miami Highlights”)





A Curious Catwalk for a Cure

3 08 2009

A charity promotion from the Minnesota Lynx (found by ASC) is a perfect example of how gender is constantly (re)constructed in women’s sport. There is so much going on is this ad, it makes your head spin! The juxtaposition of femininity and sport, and influence of homophobia, as some would argue, are painfully evident. The only thing missing from the event is a kiss-cam! What do you think?
Lynx 2009 Cat Walk





The uncertain, vulnerable, scandal-prone land of [women’s] sports??

24 07 2009

To cap off a week of weird sport media, I’ll end the week with this piece on ESPN.com that discusses the “state of uncertainty for women’s sports.”

The author documents the “state” of women’s sport, which in turn will influence the opinion of some, and nudge others to believe that the “historic meltdown of women’s sports” is imminent.

The problem is the journalist does not document similar “uncertainties” in mens’ sport such as lack of parity in leagues, changes in personnel, controversies, retirements, changes in sponsorship and endorsements, “bad” seasons, teams that don’t make money, mismanagement, lack of ‘star’ power, and financial difficulties driven by a bad economy which are hurting ALL leagues and male and female athletes alike! The sensationalist and inflammatory language that is used also helps inflame the sensibilities of those who already think women’s sports are unwatchable and not consumable, and potentially drive away fence-sitters. Who wants to attend or watch something that is about to crumble? Do you buy an plane ticket of an airline that just had a catastrophic crash? NO! You pick another airline.

plane-belt-extender-aHe goes on to write that, “The modern women’s pro sports movement has proven dangerously vulnerable to market conditions and scandal.” Is this to say that men’s sports are not prone to the same? I haven’t seen a similar piece on men’s sports….anyone? For everyone out there who believes in women’s sport…keep buying those tickets, the women’s sport plane is not likely to crash anymore than the mens’, both might be on a steep decent, but buckle up and ride it out.

UPDATE: In fact some argue the “WNBA: Not Just a Punch Line Anymore”





Serena’s Shirt Exposes Wimbledon Sexism

7 07 2009

If you haven’t seen the t-shirt Serena Williams sported in her post-match Wimbledon press conference, then you are missing out.Titles2_serena Given the attention to attractiveness, court assignments, body parts (i.e., “back packs”) sex sells women’s tennis controversy at Wimbledon, Williams clearly has the last say. Perhaps it was in jest, but the point of the t-shirt which contrasts her athletic achievements (11 Grand Slam Titles) with a primary focus on her body, mocks the attention given to the feminine, attractive, sexualized nature of the dialogue surrounding her (and other female athletes) play over the fortnight. To hammer this point home….Just think if Roger Federer wore shorts to his press conference with print on the front asking “Are you looking at my trophy?”

For more critique, read the NPR piece “The Nation: Sexism On Centre Court” written by Dave Zirin in which Tucker Center Director Mary Jo Kane is quoted.





Wimbledon’s Centre Court = Babe Central?

1 07 2009

While I was out of town participating in the Up2Us Regional Sports-based Youth Development Conference hosted by the LA84 Foundation, a graduate student forwarded me an article link I felt compelled to share (thanks EH!).

A nydailynews.com article ran yesterday titled “Wimbledon turns Centre Court into Babe Central, giving players spotlight based on looks, not talent” which outlines that “hot, attractive” lower-ranked players were scheduled to play on Centre Count, and top-ranked players like Serena Williams were relegated to play on less prestigious courts. In the article All England Club spokesman Johnny Perkins was quoted as saying “good looks are a factor” when scheduling matches on Centre Court, in large part it seems due to television coverage.

Wimbledon Thought Process2

Greg Couch writes more about the “babe factor in tennis” on his blog where he states, “A few days ago, Maria Sharapova played Gisela Dulko, and on Wimbledon’s official website, the report of the match said, “As Sharapova and Dulko ran and stretched and lunged, most of the male spectators could not have cared less about their topspin forehands and would no more have recognized a western grip from a western movie — this match was about hormones, pure and simple.”

Unfortunately, it is also “pure and simple” another example of sport media and women’s sport promoting “sexy” athletes (which you could also read as White, feminine, & ponytailed) over athletic competence–which reinforces notions of what matters, what sells, and what is valued. If you want to read a new book out about this issue see D. Daniels (2009) “Polygendered and Ponytailed:The Dilemma of Femininity and the Female Athlete”.





The Sport Media’s Role in Promoting Femininity: An Example in Women’s Tennis

26 06 2009

feminine tennisA picture tells a thousand words and this picture is a perfect example of when female athletes are covered in the media, it is often in ways that highlight femininity-rather than athletic competence. For more on this subject read here, here, or here.





New Twitter research: Help in marketing women’s sport?

10 06 2009

A new study from Harvard provides information to those banking on Twitter to help market, promote, and sustain women’s sports. Here are some snippets if you don’t want to read the entire article or the post on Harvard Business Publishing:
1. “Just 10% of Twitter users generate more than 90% of the content”…superchirpthese people are called “super users”. Super Users can now make money through a just launched service called Super Chirp

2. “…very, very few people tweet and the Nielsen data says very, very few people listen consistently.”

3. “Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is one”

and my favorite bit….Tweet bird

4. “…an average man was almost twice as likely to follow another man than a woman, despite the reverse being true on other social networks. The sort of content that drives men to look at women on other social networks does not exist on Twitter,” said Mr. Heil (one of the researchers). “By that I mean pictures, extended articles and biographical information.”

Twitter may be reaching a certain audience, but probably not males who don’t opt in and follow women’s sport.

Take home message for female athletes and women’s professional sport leagues: Use sexy pictures you download onto TwitPic to garner millions of followers (given the stack of research on how female athletes are sexualized in the sport media, such a picture shouldn’t be hard to find), then start charging your followers money to follow your Tweets. Voila!...instant revenue!

Given Heil’s findings, this may unfortunately lend some credence to the “sex sells” women’s sport debate (for more on this debate click here and here). But… I still contend that sex sells sex, not women’s sport.





International Conference on Girls & Women in Sport

28 05 2009

IWG logoThe International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG) has officially announced the dates for the 5th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport. The conference will be held in Sydney, Australia May 20-23, 2010. A call for abstracts will be released July 2009. I’ll see you there!





The LFL…that stands for The Lingerie Football League

22 05 2009

lfl_logoThe LFL…short for The Lingerie Football League…should really be short for “LaFf out Loud”. Please take a look at The LFL website if you haven’t yet. LFLMany of you who read this blog probably already know what my response to this might be. But first you should see some recent practice pictures featured on SportsIllustrated.com. Honestly I don’t even know where to start the critical commentary…the team names, the uniforms, the photo gallery, the concept…..(sigh).

If this league survives and thrives, then I guess we all have more data to help us answer the burning question “Does sex sell women’s sport?” What do YOU think about The LFL?