Sponsors catch on to booming womens' sport
By Emma Thomasson
BERLIN (Reuters) - The popularity of the women's soccer World Cup is the latest sign of a virtuous cycle in female sport as increasing advertising revenue boosts professionalism and viewers.
Television audiences for the early women's World Cup matches in Canada are up strongly in many countries compared with the last competition in 2011, doubling or tripling in major markets like the United States and China.
Fox Sports, which is airing all 52 games live, is expected to raise ad revenue of more than $30 million, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
That dwarfs the $6 million that consumer data group Kantar Media reported broadcaster ESPN getting in 2011, but is still a tiny fraction of the $525 million in U.S. ad revenue generated by the men's World Cup in 2014.
"Women's sport is at a tipping point from a media point of view, from a commercial point of view and from a participation point of view," said John Postlethwaite, who set up sponsorship agency Female Sports Group in February to seize the opportunity he sees in women's and mixed-gender sport.
Tennis has long been the only sport in which women had the chance to earn big prize money and endorsements - in a Forbes magazine ranking of the best paid female athletes, seven of the top 10 play tennis.
Of those, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are the only women in Forbes' overall top 100 best paid athletes, although each still made less than half that of the highest earning male tennis star - Roger Federer on $67 million.