Beyond Olympics, Super Bowl, Women Are Watching the Kentucky Derby and U.S. Open Tennis
via television sports programming has always been part of the Marketing 101
curriculum. When it comes to reaching women through sports, however, certain
events have also proven to be big winners-namely, the Summer Olympics, the
Kentucky Derby and the U.S Open Men's Tennis Championship. Aside from those, no
other sporting event has drawn more than 50% women in 2011-12,
according to Nielsen data.
But there are
several major TV sports events that do draw significant concentrations of
women, in the 33-45% audience range, and advertisers who have
avoided those telecasts as a vehicle to target women should perhaps reconsider.
senior VP and director of research at Horizon Media recently released a report
that includes assorted data about Olympics viewing. In that report, he also featured
a list based on this 2011-12 Nielsen data on sports telecasts and women
The London Games
audience in primetime on NBC had an audience makeup of 53.8% women, the highest
concentration of female viewers of any major sporting event. The Kentucky Derby
on NBC had the next highest concentration of women with 51.3% and the U.S. Open
Men's Tennis Championship on CBS had an even split of men and women. Those two
events had smaller total audiences.
The London Games
drew an average of 31 million viewers per night over its 17
nights, while the Derby drew 14.8 million for its one annual telecast, with
the U.S. Open Men's Tennis Championship drew 3.4 million. The Olympics also had
a younger median age audience, 49.4, compared to the Derby (60.3) and Open
Olympics, although televised only every four years, draws more female
viewers than any other sports event on television, and the recent London
Games proved particularly strong for reaching women viewers.
"The London Games
were known as the women's Olympics," Adgate says. "The U.S. Olympic team
had for the first time more female athletes than males. In another first, every
Olympic team had at least one female member. For the U.S., 63% of the gold
medals were won by females, including the women's soccer, basketball and gymnastics
Adgate says the
2008 U.S. Olympic team was comprised of 310 men and 286 women, while the 2012
U.S. team was made up of 269 women and 261 men. The U.S. women won 29 of the 46
U.S. gold medals at the London Games.
There has also
been a steady growth of female athletes overall in the Summer Olympics, Adgate
says. So if women want to tune into the Games to see women compete, there are now
In 1984, 24% of all
Olympic athletes were women. That increased to 25% at the Barcelona games in
1992. By the 1996 Atlanta Games, the percentage of women competing in
the Summer Olympics rose to 36%, and in Beijing in 2008 it was up to 42%. In
London, that percentage reached 44%.
Adgate cites a
study from Penn State and the University of Tennessee that shows female viewers
prefer to watch the Olympics more than any other sport, including the WNBA
"The study found
females prefer the way the Olympics are packaged, with an easy to understand
narrative," Adgate says. "Females like the storytelling profiling Olympic
competitors, as they don't have time to follow the athletes. The study also
found that women prefer watching female competitions that highlight the athlete's
fluidity and grace, as opposed to physicality and aggressiveness that is more identifiable
As a result, Adgate
says, the more popular Olympic events with female viewers are gymnastics and
tennis at the Summer Games and figure skating during the Winter Games.
Adgate adds, "One of the ratings surprises of the Summer Olympics was
the popularity of archery, which was televised on [NBC Sports Network]
during the daytime and averaged a surprising 1.5 million viewers. The event was
especially strong with young females." He says the popularity of the movie The Hunger Games could have helped fuel
TV sports event that drew the largest female viewing audience was the Super
Bowl on NBC, which had an overall 111.3 million viewers, with women making up
45.3% of that total.
Other TV sports
events that got the highest concentration of women, according to Nielsen data,
include: the U.S. Open Women's Tennis Championship (45.5%), the Euro Cup Soccer
Championship on ESPN (42.4%), the World Series on Fox (38.4%), Stanley Cup
Finals on NBC and the NBA Finals on ABC (both 37.3%), the Masters golf
tournament final round on CBS (35.9%), the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship
final game on CBS and the Daytona 500 on Fox (both 35.5%), the NCAA Women's
Basketball Championship final game on ESPN (34.8%), the NCAA Men's Football BCS
Championship game on ESPN (34%) and the U.S. Open Women's Golf Championship
final round on NBC (33.6%).