The growing interest in women’s sport across the world
September 9th, 2023, Rishad Dsouza

The growing interest in women’s sport across the world

On August 31 in Nebraska's Memorial Stadium, 92,003 fans gathered to cheer on the home team Huskers in an NCAA Division I match, setting a new women’s sporting attendance record. While the attendance at this particular game was the outcome of a concerted effort geared towards creating the record with the day marketed as Volleyball Day, it reflects a growth in appetite for women’s sporting events.

A raft of attendance records have been registered in women’s sport in recent months. The previous highest attendance at a women’s sports match was only logged last year, with 91,648 people going through the gates for the UEFA Champions League match between Barcelona and Wolfsburg. The just-concluded version of the FIFA Women’s World Cup was comfortably the most well-attended version of the event yet with an aggregate of nearly two million. The cricket and rugby (union) women’s attendance records have also been set in recent years.

YouGov global tracking data bears out that these attendance milestones indeed reflect a structural growth in the appetite for women’s sport overall, not limited to only some special occasions. From November 2020, which is when YouGov first started tracking this datapoint, until June 2023, the share of consumers who say they have watched women’s sport in the last month has risen from 21% to 28%.

Barring the exceptional spike in viewership associated with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (which was actually held in Jul – Aug, 2021), women’s sport has experienced steady gains throughout this period.

This uptick hasn’t come at the expense of men’s sport either. During the same period, men’s sport viewership rates have stayed somewhat steady, from 43% to 46%.

It’s important to consider the role Covid-19 lock downs may have played in causing lower viewership figures earlier in the time period. Even so, the relative increase in women’s sport viewership rates compared to men’s paints a telling story.

A good part of this growth has seemingly been driven by women. In November 2020, only 17% of women watched women’s sport and that share has risen to 25% as of July 2023. But men continue to engage in slightly greater proportions with women’s sport, as seen in the chart below.

The following for women’s sport isn’t distributed evenly across markets though. Indonesians, who top the charts, are over three times as likely as consumers in the US, Germany and Singapore to have watched/followed women’s sport.

In each of Mexico (39%), India (36%), China (34%), UAE (33%), Spain (32%) and Sweden (31%), at least three in ten consumers report having watched women’s sport in the past month. Meanwhile, at least a quarter of consumers in Poland (26%), Italy (27%), Denmark (28%) and Australia (29%) indicate the same. Although at the bottom half of the list, rates are still fairly substantial in Britain, Canada, France and Hong Kong with about a fifth of consumers saying they followed women’s sport in the past month.

Overall, these trends in women's sports viewership and attendance records suggest a positive shift towards greater recognition and appreciation of women's sports on a global scale. Sponsors, take note!

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Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. The data is based on surveys of adults aged 18+ years in 18 markets with sample sizes varying between 10655 and 30473 for each market. All surveys were conducted online in January 2023. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from Mexico and India, which use urban representative samples, and Indonesia and Hong Kong, which use online representative samples. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.