Most Americans, including myself, can tell you what Steph Curry eats for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the name of the small college he attended, and his stance on a wide range of issues including the importance of peanut butter sandwiches. However, it’s likely that the same self-proclaimed sports fanatics wouldn’t be able to name three female athletes whose names are not Serena Williams, Alex Morgan, or Ronda Rousey.
It was this realization that inspired the year-long odyssey that led to our women’s sports news website, Excelle Sports, now 11 months old.
It was clear to us that the phenomenal female athletes were out there across many sports and in every country on earth. We also knew that for every athlete–junior, college, pro or Olympic level–there were coaches, families, and fans. We were determined to figure out why women’s sports is still such a small part of our cultural landscape and how we can change that.
So we did our research and it only increased our collective gut feeling that the time was right for women’s sports to be covered in a way they hadn’t been before and promoted globally.
The first and most convincing piece of research we discovered was that 40 percent of athletes in the U.S. are women, but only 4 percent of media coverage is dedicated to women’s sports. While a depressing statistic, the obvious void it signaled meant to us that there were endless opportunities ahead.
What’s more, within the 4 percent coverage devoted to women’s sports, most media outlets focused only on women’s NCAA basketball, soccer (and generally only in negative context when athletes were involved in DUIs or domestic violence), tennis (primarily Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova), UFC’s Ronda Rousey and clickbait like athletes mingling with celebrities.
People don’t really care about women’s sports.
We heard this comment and others like it over and over again. But, the more criticism we heard, the more we dug our heels in and were determined to prove the naysayers — both men and women — entirely wrong.
Maybe this stubborn determination, the ability to take hits and still push ahead, comes from the fact that my co-founder Cat Osborne and I were both competitive athletes through college — and we still consider ourselves die-hard competitors and sports fans. True to point, 65 percent of C-Level women played competitive sports in college.
After playing softball (Cat) and squash (Kim) in college, we knew that there was a whole other world of women’s sports out there that included volleyball, lacrosse, ice hockey, track, swimming, skiing, gymnastics and so many more. Each individual sport has a huge, passionate community of current and former athletes, coaches, families, and fans. These communities existed then and still do today in the U.S. and all around the world.
In August this year during the Olympics, the void we saw proved to be even bigger than we imagined when, five months after Excelle launched, the website jumped from 65K uniques in July to 260K uniques from 183 countries with no marketing dollars spent, all in one month’s time.
People don’t really want to watch women’s sports.
Yet, even after women made many of the headlines during the Olympics, we still heard that nobody cared to watch women’s sports beyond that. Our response then and now is that people don’t watch women’s sports because there’s little opportunity to do so — most games and events aren’t televised, so it doesn’t even occur to people to look for them. While this has improved in the last year, mainstream broadcast of women’s sports still has a long way to go. We see this as an opportunity to live stream sports on Excelle that aren’t available on TV or through other media or digital channels. We also hope that, as we build and continue to prove the existence of a massive audience of women’s sports fans around the world, advertisers and broadcasters will be encouraged to support women’s sports even more.
Print media is not much more dedicated to covering women’s sports than television. During the Olympics and major sporting events like the World Cup in soccer and major tennis tournaments, women athletes will often receive attention. But otherwise, most magazines and newspapers print only occasional short pieces on a local team or on controversial subjects like equal pay. What is missing are stories of women athletes both on and off the courts and the fields.
The best examples of athlete entrepreneurship happen when brands empower the athletes with whom they partner.
We created Excelle Sports to uncover and tell all the amazing stories of women athletes of all ages and abilities — juniors, college, pro and Olympic — along with their coaches and teams around the world, all of which deserve to be told.
It’s been tried before and it didn’t work.
That’s another comment we’ve heard many times. Women’s sports coverage has always been a good idea, but the timing is better now. With the quick and broad distribution capabilities of social and digital media, it is possible to reach many different pockets of athletes, coaches, and women’s sports fans instantaneously and with relatively little expense. In less than 10 months, we’ve attracted readers from every country around the globe except four, and 50 percent of them are men. That tells us that we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of a potentially loyal, passionate audience.
Are we crazy to believe the world wants more women’s sports coverage? From the incredibly positive response of athletes, coaches and fans all over the world, we’re obviously not. To date, we have 28 pro and Olympic athletes who have agreed to be Excelle Athlete Ambassadors and 12 of the world’s best coaches on our Coaches Council. Girls and women’s participation in sports is booming while women’s sporting events are starting to sell out before men’s in some cases.
All of this tells us that we are building something that can change the world, not only for girls and women but for all sports fans and every single kid — male or female — who needs an idol to look up to as a brilliant example of hard work and amazing athleticism.
Kim Donaldson is the Co-Founder of Excelle Sports. Learn more about her mission to revolutionize women’s sports coverage at http://www.excellesports.com/.