By Zac Cornell
DICK’s Sporting Goods announced a multi-year deal to be the official and largest retailer of the Women’s National Basketball Association, a business move that continues the retailer’s efforts to actively attract female customers.
Current DICK’s CEO Lauren Hobart, who prior to becoming CEO in early 2021 was the president of DICK’s and The DICK’s Foundation, has prioritized supporting and attracting female athletes to the retail brand. In February 2020, she launched the 2020 Women’s Initiative with a celebrity studded Here for Her Summit in New York City, which emphasized the company’s effort to champion women in sports. Announced at the event was the DICK’s Foundation three-year, $5 million Sports Matter grant to the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s United for Girls initiative. They also announced their multi-year partnership as the Official Sporting Goods Retailer of USA Softball, and a commitment for their Foundation to work with their brands and merchandising partners to make needed equipment, uniform, and financial donations to women’s sports.
In March 2021 in honor of Women’s History Month, DICK’s ran an ad campaign entitled “Inside Moves” which featured the company’s female leadership and detailed their work to support female athletes. The campaign was intended to attract female consumers by revealing that DICK’s has strong female leaders that cater to women’s needs. In the summer of 2021, DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation announced a donation of 100,000 of their branded sports bras to underserved female athletes throughout the country in an effort to keep girls playing sports. And during the Tokyo Summer Olympics, DICK’s ran a female-focused ad campaign.
The female-focused branding has definitely paid off financially for the company. Under Hobart’s leadership, company profits have hit record levels with last year’s net sales rising 9.5%, and this year’s sales up 53% above pre-pandemic levels.
DICK’s latest move to partner with the WNBA was hailed by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, not just for the opportunity to sell more of the WNBA league’s team jerseys, but for Hobart’s example of “inclusive leadership in action.”
Sports brands are continually realizing the financial benefit of targeting women customers and athletes. Nike has actively pursued female customers through ad campaigns, and investments and partnerships to expand women’s sports, like flag football in high schools. In 2016, Under Armour struck a deal to sell its merchandise in Kohl’s stores to specifically target female consumers. The sports industry is seeing female athletes gaining more attention from marketers and fans, and that is leading to more money invested in women’s sports. Ratings for women’s sports continue to increase, which will ensure continued growth for women’s sports. According to a 2021 report from Deloitte accounting firm, TV and sponsorship revenue for women’s sports will hit over $1 billion globally in the near future. According to Dan Cohen, the head of sports marketing company Octagon’s media rights consulting division, “The stakeholders on the commercial side of sports are constantly searching for the next frontier, the next growth play. It is clearly women’s sports.”