Major Media Buyer GroupM Will Double Its Women’s Sports Investments & Set Up Dedicated Marketplace For Deals

GroupM, the media buying arm of advertising giant WPP, is planning to double its annual investment in women’s sports and create a dedicated marketplace to facilitate deals.

The initiative will begin in the 2024-25 upfront, with an initial roster of advertisers including Adidas, Ally, Coinbase, Discover, Google, Mars, Nationwide, Unilever and Universal Pictures. More brands are expected to come aboard down the line, the company said.

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Women’s sports as a category are projected to generate more than $1 billion in revenue in 2024, according to an estimate by consulting firm Deloitte. While growth has come in several areas, basketball has been particularly strong, with rising ratings for NCAA tournament games and the WNBA.

“Our industry has seen the incredible impact of investing in women’s sports over the last several years, but even with continued momentum, women’s sports investments only comprise a mere fraction of total media spend in sports,” said Matt Sweeney, Chief Investment Officer, GroupM US. “Starting with this year’s upfront negotiations, our team will procure elevated opportunities that are a win-win for our advertisers. GroupM advertisers have challenged the marketplace to flip the script on how to invest in women’s sports, and they will continue to play a pivotal role moving forward.”

Opportunities eyed by GroupM range from broadcast sponsorships and bespoke packages to grassroots investments with leagues and athlete-owned entertainment companies.

“With heightened demand for women’s sports, and a responsibility to enhance the women’s sports marketplace, our team is committed to delivering our advertisers with bespoke and bountiful opportunities that will drive brand impact, increase ad effectiveness and optimize business outcomes,” said Denise Ocasio, Executive Director of Investment, GroupM. “Fast-growing audiences are watching at a high clip, and subsequently, women’s sports programming is in the ranks with some of the highest rated broadcasts overall. Advertising alongside women’s sports works.”

Data and measurement firm EDO has studied the impact of advertising in women’s sports on a brand’s image and commercial objectives. Among the findings was one eye-catching stat: Adidas ads featuring female athletes were 69% more effective than the brand’s average ad on broadcast and cable in 2023.

“Beyond prioritizing investing in women’s sports as a whole, we need to challenge the way advertising and sponsorship packages are bought and sold,” said Martin Blich, Executive Director, Sports and Live Investment, GroupM. “For many years, there has been disparity between men’s and women’s sports advertising, but today there are increased opportunities across women’s sports. We hope our commitment will help brands execute a more holistic investment strategy centered around audience, while increasing overall sports advertising.”

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