Women’s Sports and Short-Form Video Are the Perfect Match

Brands can reach fans by telling motivating and inspirational stories

What a year 2023 has been for women’s sports.

The NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four just broke all kinds of viewership records. The two semifinals games averaged 4.5 million viewers on ESPN, with the Iowa-South Carolina matchup averaging 5.5 million and a peak of 6.6 million. Those games were the two most viewed (men’s or women’s) college basketball games ever on ESPN+.

And then this summer, the FIFA Women’s World Cup will take place in Australia and New Zealand. Last time around in 2019, more than 1.1 billion viewers tuned in to the tournament worldwide.

It’s clear that women’s sports are here to stay and that there is an amazing opportunity for brands to tap into a highly engaged fanbase.

Short-form video for the win

For today’s Gen Z and Millennial fans, excitement for women’s sports content goes far beyond TV viewership. In fact, a recent survey conducted by media publisher and content studio Team Whistle found that short-form video is the answer. Respondents were 5.6 times more likely to prefer short-form videos over text-based articles when consuming stories around the Women’s NCAA March Madness tournament.

Understanding the importance of creating the right short-form content that connects with audiences is crucial for showing up in social feeds. Relatable content ranks 5 times higher than aspirational content among young adults. Putting an emphasis on storytelling that reveals the authentic person behind the celebrity, athlete or creator, rather than an overly aspirational and idealized version of themselves, is key.

Associate your brand with winners

Brands can win big by investing in short-form content designed specifically for women’s sports fans. In fact, fans are urging more brands to get involved and highlight underrepresented female athletes.

Team Whistle’s study revealed that women are 4 times more likely to think positively about brands that sponsor women’s sports over men’s sports and that the No. 1 way to do that is by creating social content.

Getting in on the women’s sports wave isn’t just a smart financial investment, but a great strategy to drive brand association and favorability among young consumers.

Team Whistle recently joined with the National Guard on a social-first campaign for the Women’s NCAA Basketball tournament. It used trending formats hosted by in-house creators to cover the relatable stories and culture-driven headlines the games. A content slate of uplifting player profiles and reactions to the tournament’s biggest moments authentically championed the National Guard’s brand messaging and aligned it with the desired Gen Z female audience.

Waking up with the World Cup

The next major event on the women’s sports calendar is the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. While 90% of sports fans are interested in the tournament, linear viewership will be restricted by time zone complexities because the event will take place in Australia and New Zealand. Short-form video will be the first place fans turn to for the latest updates when they wake up each morning. This—combined with the fact that 87% respondents to the Team Whistle survey said they consume short-form videos constantly—shows that you can expect unprecedented viewership during the tournament on social.

To break through this noise, it’s critical to understand what fans are looking for. When polled, sports fans felt that the best women’s sports content on social media is motivating and inspiring in nature. But it is not just about looking up to the players when they’re on the field. Women’s sports fans are looking for relatable role models and 75% of them agreed that an important part of that is learning about the athletes beyond just the sport they play.

The simultaneous rise in popularity of both women’s sports and short-form content will collide during the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Team Whistle is investing in and prioritizing short-form content around this tentpole. It will be a major opportunity for brands to authentically connect with an engaged audience through trending, social-first formats that highlight the stories behind the next generation of sports superstars.

Katie Cook is the senior director of global marketing at Team Whistle, where she oversees marketing for Team Whistle’s internal agency team. She works on creative development focused on strategy and ideation, content production, talent sourcing, insights and execution for brands and partners across sports and entertainment.