Why is sports still a man's game?
ESPN W caters to female fans, but no Canadian equivalent
I'm a self-proclaimed sport junkie.
Sports talk radio dominates the dial in my car. My Sundays are spent watching NFL football. My Saturday nights include Hockey Night in Canada on CBC. Baseball was my passion as a kid. The Masters signifies spring and my early morning bike workouts are far more enjoyable with the company of Wimbledon.
It likely stems from the fact I'm the middle child with two brothers. Sports were a way of life in our family. We played them. We watched them. It was — and still is — what we do as a family.
But, despite sport ruling our lives, I have no memory of having a female athlete role model. I can't remember someone I wanted to be when I grew up to be. My older brother wanted to be Nolan Ryan. My younger brother, David Justice.
It wasn't because female athlete role models didn't exist, they just weren't on TV and in the newspapers the way men were.
Thirty odd years later, I have to wonder how much has changed. Are people aware of Kaillie Humphries and her fight for a female four-woman bobsled event? Do they know about Marie-Eve Drolet attempting to make the World Cup short track team a year after giving birth to her daughter? Or that the CWHL/NWHL played its first ever outdoor Winter Classic game in Boston?
Every time I tune into sport talk radio and Canadian sport specialty channels, I get men's sports with a side of men's analysis. No doubt, there are women in the industry and many of them are very talented at what they do but typically, they are sideline reporters and sport desk hosts.
Men, many who have never played the sport, are cast as the experts. Rarely do we see female experts. Outside from small doses of content (FIFA women's World Cup on TSN, tennis and the CWHL on Sportsnet, and high performance sport coverage on CBC) it is all men, all the time.
ESPNW, brands recognize value of female fans
Before the comment section attacks me for spewing feminism, let me be clear. The point of this piece is not that women are being marginalized by Canadian sport media nor am I advocating for equal female analyst time on Hockey Night in Canada (although, I could likely write an argument supporting both points!). I simply want to point out that south of the border, ESPN is doing something our sport media isn't.
They are acknowledging that women are sports fans too.
Unlike our sport specialty networks, ESPN is catering to their female fans. They understand that women demand different content.
ESPNW is the brainchild of Laura Gentile. The digital platform is ESPN's first dedicated business built to serve women who love sports. Launched in 2010, the platform includes commentary, in-depth features and storytelling on the world of sports. It provides a space for women to converse and see content that matters to them. It is sport content specifically curated for female sports fan.
The strategy mirrors the growing focus of many brands. Increasingly, connecting with the female demographic has become paramount. A prime example is the Canadian Dairy Farmers of Canada and their partnership with female athlete ambassadors and female sport through the #ChampionHer campaign.
Globally, apparel companies like Nike and adidas understand the revenue growth potential of the women's active wear market and continue to aggressively model strategy and marketing toward their female customers.
Is it too much to ask that Canadian sports media do the same?