According to the NFL, 375,000 women attend games each week and more than 45 million watch NFL games on TV weekly. As more women become fans of the sport, individual teams prosper, the NFL flourishes and the network/cable coverage attracts more diversity in their sponsors.
NFL is reaching out with some ads specifically targeting female viewers. Additionally, teams are offering a variety of events from Football 101 to instructional seminars that explain everything from strategies to football history, helping to convert casual viewers to loyal fans. Eighteen teams participate in the Football 101 program, and more than 10,000 women attend annually.
Football also has other things that make it attractive to women, sports experts say. The season is short, the number of games few, so it doesn’t involve the same time commitment as baseball. It’s also possible to understand the play without becoming a master of statistics.
Several teams have developed successful programs to boost their female support. Teams that want to grow their fan base, get more people to games or sell more merchandise, understand that reaching out to women makes good business sense.
According to several sources, including NBC Sports, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the largest female fan base in professional football. A third of Pittsburgh-area women consider themselves fans. The Steelers sold out a Ladies Night Out event they held that included a prime rib dinner and a tour of Heinz Field.
Many teams realize the need to connect with women more than a decade ago. In 2003, in an attempt to attract women, the Ravens formed Purple, a club which is free to women interested in joining, along with a higher-level club, the Lavender Ladies, which costs $250. In 2005, the Ravens added a ladies festival where women could come to the stadium, meet players, go on the field and talk to coaches. In the women’s merchandise section of the NFL’s website, the Ravens have more than 9o different items. Female fans buy about $150 million in merchandise each year.
As more teams realize the economic clout and interest of women in the sport of football, more and more programs will be designed to appeal to this growing, untapped and very lucrative market.