Sports Business/03/08/2019

ISPO Survey Shows: Sports Business Is Becoming Increasingly Female

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Women conquer the sports business, whether as trainers in the German Bundesliga, as sports travel organizers or fitness bloggers - and as customers, too. These are the findings of a survey* by ISPO Munich 2019 on the topic of "Women in Sport Business".

Die ISPO Women's Lounge auf der ISPO Munich 2019.
ISPO Women's Lounge at ISPO Munich 2019.

It is no surprise for visitors to ISPO Munich 2019 that sports equipment for women has long been anything but a copy of the male version. From lightweight women's skis to stylish hiking boots for sportswomen - high-quality products that have been specially devised and developed for the female target group are on the rise.

More and more women are interested in sports and are a growing target group. But with different requirements. These already begin with the development of products that involve much more than just coloring.

However, there are far too few women in management positions in the sports industry who decide on product lines. This impression is confirmed by the survey "Women in Sport Business" among exhibitors and visitors at ISPO Munich 2019.

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Female Target Group Becomes More and More Important

The survey shows: the sports business is keeping a close eye on the growing target group of women. Two thirds of the manufacturers have products for women in their assortment. 46 percent state that the importance of the female target group for the company has increased in the last two years. This opinion is also shared by specialist dealers.

For many customers, the look is less important than that the equipment meets their own requirements, says Kim Scholze, Community Manager at ISPO Munich and responsible for the ISPO initiative "Women in Sport Business: "Women are usually the decision-makers when it comes to the family budget. This makes it all the more important to meet their requirements. For example, they expect a certain shopping experience, which includes professional competence and empathy in the consultation. And they want gender-specific products that meet their anatomical and ergonomic requirements."

Women Help Develop Products - but Only One in Five Decides

So the signs have been recognized, but is the industry responding? Apparently, this is not always the case among sporting goods manufacturers and retailers, according to the survey. The vast majority of companies (94 percent) involve women in product development, for example as part of the design or sales team.

However, in only 22 percent of the cases, women also make decisions about these products. No wonder, then, that many advertising films or marketing campaigns are told from a male perspective - and do not reflect the reality of women's lives.

But according to Kim Scholze, more and more brands are focusing on a more emotional visual language that specifically addresses women. North Face is a good example: with a large-scale campaign, the company wants to strengthen women in the sports business and draw their attention to them. The trend towards special offers for female athletes is also changing the event sector: demand for high-quality formats for women has been growing for years - from women's winter camps to bike camps.

Only 16 Percent of Executives in the Sports Business Are Female

There is also a lot in motion at management level. Brands such as Kari Traa, Leki or Vaude already rely on women in company management. But the survey by ISPO Munich shows that there is still a lot of room for improvement. Almost half (48 percent) of the retailers and manufacturers surveyed had a share of less than 25 percent of female managers. Only in 16 percent of the cases the proportion is above 50 percent.

"There are still too few female executives in the sporting goods industry. In addition, the industry is not yet sufficiently aware of the target-group-specific way in which women are addressed," says Kim Scholze. "With the initiative 'Women in Sports Business', ISPO, in cooperation with Messe München, wants to raise awareness in the industry. We want to promote social discourse in order to promote change in the industry. There's still a lot of potential here."

*International survey of 833 exhibitors and visitors at ISPO Munich on the topic of "Women as a target group" and "Women in management positions", conducted in February 2019, Munich. The survey is part of the initiative of Messe München GmbH and ISPO Munich on the topic of "Women in Sport Business".