All the talk yesterday about sports marketing and women’s teams was still in my head when I ran across this little nugget: There’s a National Women’s Football Association (www.womensfootballcentral.com/).
Should I have known this or is it news to you, too?
Okay, so there are 31 pro teams around the country (31!) from the Pensacola Power to the Maine Freeze, from the Austin Outlaws to the Cincinnati Sizzle, and the Gulf Coast Herricanes (yes, I spelled that right). There’s even one here in my home state of North Carolina – the Asheville Assault.
Just in case there’s any confusion, this is TACKLE football. No foofy little waving flags for these athletes. Remember, they’re called the Assault, not the Nudge.
The NWFA web site says that women’s football is “the fastest growing sports organization in the country.” Three new teams will join the league for the 2006 season, bringing the total to 34 teams.
So, just out of curiosity, I did a highly unscientific poll to see what types of companies are sponsoring these teams. I mean, here’s a sport that’s growing, where a relatively small investment could propel a company into the sport’s spotlight.
Here’s a sampling of sponsors: a chiropractor, an orthopedist, local caterer, local insurance agency, heating and air company, and Chic Sports Radio (http://www.awsmonline.org/ChicSportsRadio.htm). And that was from multiple teams. The one sponsor that seemed like it could also sponsor an NFL team was Samuel Adams. I guess wherever there’s football, there must be beer.
With such powerful marketing dollars behind them (please read with a hint of sarcasm), teams are forced to come up with other ways to cover expenses. Take the Massachusetts Mutiny (http://www.massmutiny.com), for example. The athletes are full-time salespeople, teachers, attorneys, grad students, analysts, and financial professionals. Yet, there they are – on a calendar. In various stages of equipment undress. Or sporting a cowboy hat while carrying another player piggyback.
Heavy sigh of frustration.
Why a calendar? Because, according to the team’s owner, the biggest challenge is proving that these women, who can throw a football with a tight spiral, run, block and tackle like their male counterparts, aren’t too threatening. “After people see the photos, a lot of them say – hey, these aren’t big, awful, icky, gross women,” said Sheri Russell. “People need to know that these are really beautiful, professional, articulate, sexy, athletic women.”
If that’s the price for entry to play professional football, I can think of more than a few NFL players that don’t measure up. But apparently that’s the price that sponsors demand. Women must prove their femininity and show athletic prowess while the guys only have to be good athletes.