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Women and Sports

By By Rafaela B. W. Carneiro, partner at Dannemann Siemsen - 24/04/2019
Women and Sports

As we know, sports have become a multi-billion dollar global industry practiced by men and women every day in all parts of the world generating investment in facilities, employing millions of people around the world and entertaining many more.

Sports also shows IP 24/7 live and in action. Patents, for example, may enhance technology that will result in better equipment, while trademarks identify the events, team names and the products themselves. Copyrights, on the other hand, will regulate and generate broadcast revenues and licensing and merchandising agreements will provide the support for the business to take place.

However, why not talk about gender equality in sports in the first place when we already know that the female market has a huge potential in sales, for instance? Gender discrimination in sports has long been a controversial topic due to unequal wage, unequal viewership, and unequal opportunities between men and women. Statistics have proven that women in sports are generally ignored and are given very little importance when it comes to media coverage.

Although approximately 40% of sport and physical activity participants are women, women’s sports receive only 4% of all media coverage.

For example, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio represented a significant stage in the fight for true parity in sport: 47.7% of the athletes were women, a new record. But instead of cheering on talented athletes, attention has remained frustratingly mired in sexism.

There are innumerous interesting examples of disparities but let’s just delve on a few of them…

Soccer-loving girls around the world idolize a Brazilian footballer called Marta, who holds the record for the most goals scored in FIFA Women’s World Cup and has been honored six times as FIFA World Player of the Year. For all of her accomplishments, she is naturally the highest paid female player in the game but, despite that, she still makes 160 times less than the highest paid male player.

By the way, football’s gender pay gap is worse than in politics and the medical and space industries.  When it comes to women, tennis is by far the most money-making sport for female athletes. In fact, all grand slam tennis tournaments have paid male and female champions equally since Wimbledon began doing so in 2007.

A couple of years ago, Serena Williams’ response to a journalist who asked about her being “one of the greatest female athletes of all time” that she preferred “one of the greatest athletes of all time”, won praise and admiration. Despite that, Novak Djokovic, men’s number one tennis player, earned twice as much as Serena.

And who doesn’t remember Serena’s Nike custom-made black catsuit controversy at the French Open last year ending with her showing up a few days later to win the US open matches wearing a tulle tutu? Nike’s immediate response to the decision to ban the catsuit was “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers”. 

Well, the debate brought immediately a couple of topics into discussion: how female athletes face more scrutiny; how short can a skirt be; is that a lady’s business to look beautiful rather than comfortable; can you see a world champion male athlete enduring criticism of his looks?

We strongly believe that men and women , collectively, can do more about gender equality by supporting the promotion of women in sports. First, the lower coverage of women’s sports results in less viewership and a smaller fan base. Second, the reduced viewership ultimately leads to less advertisement and sponsors, which, in turn, result in reduced pay. Finally, brands are missing out on reaching valuable new audiences by shying away from sponsoring women’s sports. There are brands which maybe would never be able to dream of sponsoring a men’s Premier League Football team, for example, but may just have the right budget to sponsor the front of the shirt of the women’s team of that same Premier League. The same goes for a cosmetic brand which might have difficulties in sponsoring a men’s rugby team because that is definitely not the audience they want to reach, but there are other opportunities in women’s sports.
In sum, all these factors create a cycle that keeps women’s sports ignored and less appreciated. Fortunately, winds of change are blowing. In a game last March a crowd of 39,000 did watch the game Juventus vs. Fiorentina at Allianz Stadium, a record for a women’s game in Italy. The weekend before, a crowd of 60,739 fans had watched Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid, a record again for a domestic women’s game in Europe.

Let’s hope that the media will keep on encouraging people to attend / watch more female events because that will definitely attact greater visibility for female athletes!  

By By Rafaela B. W. Carneiro, partner at Dannemann Siemsen - 24/04/2019
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Recognised as leaders in Intellectual Property in Latin America, we are a team of experts who has been dedicated to defending industrial and intellectual property since 1900. We operate throughout the world, encompassing first-rate civil and criminal advocacy, covering diverse areas of Law and all segments of industry. We are partners of large national and international companies.

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