By Jennifer Roback
As a push continues to advance the popularity of female sports, companies are taking notice and offering investments to keep the momentum going.
“In order to make money, you need to spend money,” Kendall Coyne Schofield, Olympic hockey gold medalist, and recent Chicago Red Stars investor told NBC's On Her Turf at the Olympics back in July 2021.
Well, the popular beer brand Michelob Ultra, has taken notice and in turn, has taken the step to invest in the future of female sports. In partnership with their "Save It, See It" campaign, the company announced on August 26, 2021, that they will pledge a $100 million commitment to women’s sports over the next five years.
Their donation comes after a plea urging fans on social media to boost the visibility of female athletes.
“Coming off the [Olympic] Games where women did exceptionally well and brought home more medals than men, we believe it’s the right time to keep people watching women’s sports,” Michelob Ultra’s marketing vice president Ricardo Marques told Forbes.
Along with the multi-million pledge, the company is also set to allocate 50% of their lifestyle media towards women’s sports, a 40% increase from where they are today.
“Visibility affects sponsorships, which ultimately affects salaries,” Marques added. “We are trying to create a chain reaction.”
NBC reported that it would take 350 WNBA salaries or 2.4 times the available roster spots to match the salary of NBA star Steph Curry alone, who is scheduled to make $45,780,966 during the upcoming 2021-22 season.
Michelob's pledge comes just days before the FAI announced that both men's and women's Irish football teams would be granted equal pay, something the USA Women's Soccer Team has been fighting for for years.
"The men's squad have agreed to reduce their international fees, with the FAI matching their contribution to ensure that the Senior Women's team match fee is increased and all male and female players receive the same match fee from the September international window onwards," the FAI said in a statement on August 31, 2021.
"The FAI has also agreed with equality of approach with the Senior Men's and Senior Women's squad with regard to any future Tournament qualification."
Michelob's journey into women's sports started 18 months ago when they first signed WNBA No. 1 draft pick Nneka Ogwumike, soccer star Alex Morgan and tennis champion Serena Williams, to their company.
In February 2021, the company continued its journey and became the naming rights sponsor of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces’ home arena at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
“We are catering to our audience,” Marques continued. “For us, it makes perfect sense not only in where our business sits today and thinking about the basic drinkers. But we also think that this is a leadership move in the beer industry. The beer industry would benefit from bringing more females into the category.”
While Michelob continues to advance their journey, they are not the only beer company to take an interest in expanding female sports. On the same day, they announced their pledge,
German beer company Heineken also announced a series of women's sports partnerships, along with becoming the official partner of the UEFA’s Women’s Championship League, and the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 and 2025.
The company also announced they will also sponsor the international motor racing championship for women drivers, the W Series.
“We are committed to delivering great shared moments to consumers all over the world and our sponsorships are exciting platforms to connect with fans through their passions and enhance their experiences,” Bram Westenbrink, Global Head Heineken Brand, said.
Catherine Bond-Muir, CEO of the W Series, added: “This partnership marks another exciting step forward for W Series and our mission to further the interests and prospects of female racing drivers. Heineken’s commitment to supporting us shows how W Series is going from strength to strength-enhancing the way our fans watch racing through exceptional experiences.
“We know the incredible support that Heineken brings through their outstanding engagement with racing fans across the world and we are delighted to partner with Heineken for this incredible journey."
While the journey for equality between men and women sports is still long, the investments from companies like Michelob Ultra and Heineken continue to strengthen the movement in the right direction.
“We need to market, we need to invest, and we need to let the players, coaches, and everyone do whatever their job is,” Coyne Schofield continued.