GroupM Launches Dedicated Women's Sports Marketplace at Upfront

The company is committed to doubling its media investment in women's sports advertising opportunities

Women’s sports are on the rise, and GroupM is looking to get marketers in the game.

Today, GroupM, WPP’s media investment group, announced it’s launching a dedicated women’s sports marketplace ahead of the upfront, with the company also committing to double its annual media investment in women’s sports.

“Right now, culturally, there’s so much excitement around women’s sports that it just bred this moment in time for us to start saying let’s formalize this a little bit,” Denise Ocasio, executive director of investment at GroupM, told ADWEEK. “Let’s start making it a true effort for all of our clients to benefit.”

With the initiative, GroupM will seek first-look and first-to-market offerings alongside advertisers such as Adidas, Ally, Coinbase, Discover, Google, Mars, Nationwide, Unilever and Universal Pictures.

“This is an open marketplace for all of our clients across GroupM so that anybody can come in, take part in it, and use this to enhance their strategy,” Martin Blich, executive director of sports and live investment at GroupM, said. “We’re looking for new innovation and first-to-market opportunities with those vendors.”

Women’s sports are projected to generate more than $1 billion in revenue in 2024, according to Deloitte, and it’s not slowing down, as buyers told ADWEEK they expect sports to be a driver once again for this year’s TV upfront.

“When we think about sports in total, women’s sports right now make up a small part, but we see the growth in this over the last few years,” Blich said. “That growth is really providing us that opportunity to enhance this, work together with our clients, collaborate on all these types of opportunities, not just media opportunities, but also content opportunities.”

Finding the right Ally

Ally chief marketing and PR officer Andrea Brimmer, who pioneered conversations with GroupM for the dedicated women’s sports marketplace, told ADWEEK that when the company made its 50/50 pledge two years ago—an initiative to advertise equally across women’s and men’s sports by 2027—systemic issues came to the forefront.

These issues included everything from the inventory complexities of undervalued leagues being packaged together to a general lack of awareness of connecting with the companies and platforms in the marketplace.

“It’s still really hard to buy women’s sports media,” Brimmer said. “You can kind of roll out of bed and buy whatever you want in the men’s sports media landscape, but you’ve got to work really hard to buy women’s sports.”

Brimmer noted a dedicated marketplace will help brands know where to start for women’s sports marketing, connecting them with bespoke packages and investments with leagues and even athlete-owned entertainment companies.

“You get to hear directly from the media platforms. You’ll get to hear directly from the people involved. You’ll get to hear directly what the opportunities are,” Brimmer said. “I think it will start to make connections that have never been made before.”

Beyond the Caitlin Clark Effect

Professional women’s sports leagues are set to see a rise in viewership and attendance in 2024, which marks the first year of a landmark four-year TV rights deal for the NWSL with CBS Sports, ESPN, Prime Video and Scripps Sports. However, the dedicated sports marketplace goes beyond the pro leagues or even the Caitlin Clark Effect.

“This is about supporting women’s sports, whether that’s what airs on broadcast or understanding how we get in on the bottom floor with NIL deals for female athletes,” Ocasio said. “It’s about embracing the entire ecosystem, and not just one league or the other, but understanding that there are growth possibilities across the board.”

Blich noted that GroupM has been investing in women’s sports for years; however, the ongoing growth of the category led to the commitment to double investment in 2024.

And though the upfront is serving as the kickoff for the dedicated sports marketplace, Ocasio added that GroupM is focused on an ongoing annual commitment.

“We are thinking of this as more than just a one-off opportunity. How do we think about women’s sports, living and breathing throughout an entire year’s media plan?” Ocasio said. “We want to send that message out to the marketplace—what better place to do it than the long-term marketplace that’s called the upfront?”

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