Sponsorship is more than a logo on a jersey or billboard – it has the power to unlock untapped potential by investing in talent, cultivating skill, and levelling the playing field – whatever the sector – and when done right, could prove to be fruitful for all parties involved.
The commercial disparity between male and female sports is still enormous. Currently, only 0.5% of the total commercial investment in sport goes into women’s sport. Men’s sport receives 61.1% and mixed sport receives 38.4%. Media coverage shows the same bias. Last year, female athletes got 4% of the worldwide sports media coverage. Men’s sport enjoyed 96% of the share.
This is why investing in under-celebrated sectors is critical. It delivers immediate and far-reaching impact.
This rings true for the arts: continued investment in initiatives like the L’Atelier preserves the continent’s art legacy, while shining the spotlight on works of young African artists to help them continue to bring African stories to life, or the Joy of Jazz, which provides a platform for established favourites, while attracting young artists for future generations.
The long-term impact of this support shows. Sport, particularly women’s sport, requires the same degree of backing.
As a brand committed to enabling women to own their success, Momentum has contributed to the professional advancement of women cricketers at the highest level over the past 7 years. Prior to Momentum’s sponsorship in 2013, none of the Proteas women’s cricketers had ever held professional contracts with Cricket South Africa (CSA). In 2020, the Momentum Proteas now have a full complement of 14 contracted women players plus a full-time coaching, support and management team – creating a global playing field, and (s)heroes our young talent can draw inspiration from.
To further the goal of creating a level playing field, we also closed off Women’s Month with the 15th instalment of the longest-running women's sport awards in South Africa, and Africa's only national women's sport awards – the Momentum gsport Awards – as we recognised the achievements of champion sportswomen in a bid to unearth new role models in women’s sport.
These milestones stand as testament to our firm belief at Momentum that sponsoring professional women’s sporting teams is one of the fastest and most effective ways to shatter the barriers sports women face in 2020.
Unlocking opportunities for women on and off the field
Yet, although there have been positive shifts in global and local trends towards sponsoring professional sportswomen and teams, the journey is far from completion.
When we look at the gender pay gap in sports, we are faced with even more troubling statistics. Banyana Banyana players earn 10 times less than Bafana Bafana players on match bonuses. According to the former Minister of Sport, Tokozile Xasa, Banyana’s players receive a R5 000 match bonus for an official match win, while Bafana players receive as much as R60 000 for a win.
And even with our sponsorship, the Momentum Proteas women earn about eight times less than their male counterparts.
Women being underpaid in sport means that the industry will attract fewer talented professional sportswomen, who out of necessity will choose to earn a living in another job and participate in sport on the side.
If we address gender bias, we can break this cycle, and even unlock opportunities for girls and women off the field.
It has been proven that girls who play team sports are more likely to graduate from university, find a job, and be employed in male-dominated industries. There’s even a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a higher salary as an adult. Learning to own victory and survive defeat in sport is good training for owning triumphs and surviving setbacks at work.
But it’s the skills like dedication, self-discipline, focus, leadership, teamwork and assertiveness that sport teaches that make an impact far beyond the playing fields – and it is in using and honing these skills that we as women can shift the momentum in our favour.
Combined with growth in the sponsoring of women’s sport, we will begin to see a much-needed wave of change.
The author is Group CMO, Momentum Metropolitan Holdings.