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The Caitlin Clark Effect: The 2024 NCAAW Tourney and Women’s Sports Ad Opportunity

The world of sports is witnessing a seismic shift, with women’s sports, particularly the NCAAW basketball tourney, capturing the imagination of fans and advertisers alike. At the heart of this transformation is Caitlin Clark, a name that has become synonymous with this year’s NCAAW Tourney and women’s basketball in general. But what is driving this rise in interest? Let’s put on our investigative hats and delve into the surging popularity of women’s basketball, Caitlin Clark, and why advertisers are now flocking to women’s sports content.

Understanding the Surge in Popularity

The NCAAW tournament has always showcased talent and determination, but recent years have seen a meteoric rise in popularity. This surge is not just a fleeting moment but a testament to the growing appeal of women’s sports and how many believe we’re watching once-in-a-generation talents take the court. 

Here are a couple of key stats on ad spend on women’s sports from Marketing Brew:

  • Ally Financial bought 4x the amount of guaranteed impressions for the women’s tournament. 2x their investment in this year’s men’s tournament.
  • ESPN sold out of women’s final four ad inventory more than two weeks out from the games.
  • Disney and local TV ads sales company Ampersand saw ad interest spike to historic levels more than six months ahead of the conference, with Disney receiving RFPs as early as May 2023. 

We’ve compiled a list of 200+ podcasts that cover “women’s sports.” From basketball to Formula 1, there’s a women’s sports podcast for every niche.

Who Is Caitlin Clark?

Caitlin Clark, a standout player in the University of Iowa women’s basketball team, has become the face of the sport. Her performances on the court are not just about scoring points; they’re about shattering records and breaking barriers. Clark’s influence extends beyond the game, inspiring a new generation of fans and players alike.

But Clark’s impact is not limited to inspiring future generations. Her games have become a magnet for viewers, drawing in audiences that women’s sports have not seen in the past. This increase in viewership is a key factor in the growing interest from advertisers looking to tap into this engaged audience.

According to Forbes, The NCAA Division One Women’s Basketball Tournament set viewing records across all six rounds, including the NCAA championship game (South Carolina vs. Iowa), which averaged 18.7 million viewers on ABC and ESPN, an 89% increase from last year’s championship game.

The Role of the NCAAW Tourney

The NCAAW tourney, with its thrilling matchups and Cinderella stories, has always had the potential to captivate audiences. However, the recent emphasis on storytelling, the personalities of the players, and the quality of play have elevated the tournament to new heights. Battles during the 2010s for collegiate athlete pay have further amplified the talk about college sports. On top of this, we’ve seen social media give teams, players, and coaches a new way to communicate directly with their fans. Podcasts have been an essential piece of that content engine. 

Why Advertisers Are Flocking to Women’s Sports Content

The shift in advertiser interest towards women’s sports is a significant development, signaling a broader change in societal attitudes and the commercial viability of women’s sports.

With 2024 marking the first year that the NCAA Women’s Tourney bested the men’s tournament in terms of viewership, it received 99% less “TV money,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Changing Perceptions

For too long, advertisers viewed women’s sports with skepticism, seeing them as lacking the audience size and engagement levels of their male counterparts. This perception is rapidly changing, thanks in part to athletes like Caitlin Clark, Paige Bueckers, and Kate Martin and events like the 2024 NCAAW tourney, which have demonstrated that women’s sports can draw large, passionate audiences.

The success of these athletes and events has not only changed perceptions but has also highlighted the untapped potential of women’s sports as a platform for advertisers to connect with a diverse and engaged audience.

Caitlin Clark in the Podcast World 

View this comprehensive list of 200+ podcasts that talk about “women’s sports.”

The Appeal to Advertisers

Advertisers are always on the lookout for new and effective ways to reach their target audiences. The rise of women’s sports offers just that – a fresh, dynamic platform with a growing fan base. The demographics of this fan base are particularly appealing, encompassing a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and interests.

Moreover, the values associated with women’s sports – determination, resilience, and teamwork – resonate with brands looking to align themselves with positive, empowering messages. This alignment is not just good for brand image; it’s good for business, driving engagement and loyalty among consumers.

The Impact of Social Media on Women’s Sports

Social media has played a pivotal role in amplifying the reach and impact of women’s sports. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have provided athletes like Caitlin Clark with a direct line to their fans, allowing them to share their journey, insights, and behind-the-scenes moments.

Through engaging content and interactive posts, athletes can build a loyal following, creating a sense of community and connection that transcends traditional media boundaries. This direct engagement with fans not only boosts the athlete’s personal brand but also contributes to the overall visibility and popularity of women’s sports.

The Rise of Women’s Sports Influencers

With the rise of social media, a new breed of influencers has emerged within the realm of women’s sports. These influencers, often athletes themselves, leverage their online presence to promote women’s sports, advocate for gender equality in athletics, and collaborate with brands that align with their values.

Speed is key here. Brands moved quickly to launch ad content featuring Caitlin Clark, taking similar approaches to previous athletes who have had a meteoric rise to fame. 

By partnering with these influencers, advertisers can tap into their authenticity and credibility, reaching a highly engaged audience that values transparency and relatability. This shift towards influencer marketing in women’s sports represents a strategic opportunity for brands to connect with consumers in a more meaningful and impactful way.

Final Thoughts

The landscape of sports is evolving, with women’s sports at the forefront of this change. The 2024 NCAAW tourney and stars like Caitlin Clark are not just changing the game; they’re changing how we view and engage with sports. For advertisers, the message is clear: women’s sports content is not just a viable platform for marketing; it’s a goldmine of undiscovered opportunity.

The WNBA season begins in the coming months and next year’s NCAAW tournament isn’t too far away. If you’d like to find podcasts that reach women’s sports fanatics, search for mentions via our transcript data of the top 5000 podcasts or unlock deep audience and demographic insights using Podchaser Pro.    

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