BLOG | by Sara Eddleston

Do men and women view the same sports events differently?

You may have seen this week the Nicola Adams-shaped Barbie doll, released as part of Mattel’s Shero range to mark International Women’s Day.

The doll is a great endorsement for Adams whose profile has grown considerably since she burst onto the scene with a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, as well as being a step forward in role models for women’s sport.

It also got us thinking about how women consume sport. As my colleague Bruce noted in his blog last year, some sports have more female followers than others. For example, more than half of tennis fans are women whilst men make up 68% of football fans. Bruce puts tennis fandom down to equal pay, men and women playing in the same tournaments and the media time women tennis players get – and I tend to agree with him.

But if you set aside the proportions of men and women fans, do their perceptions of sports events differ too? Let’s take a quick look.

I’ve taken our perceptions of Quality metric (we measure 15 other metrics as part of our SportsIndex tool) to see if the views of men and women greatly differ (this is a snapshot of our sample’s views today, using a four-week rolling average).

What this data shows, in fact, is that there is considerable overlap between the sports properties which men and women consider prestigious. Of the top twenty properties for men and women, sixteen feature in both lists, meaning that there is significant consistency between the sexes around what is considered to be Quality in a sporting event.

What’s more there is also a consistency between the rankings of the properties which both lists share.

The same four properties – Wimbledon, The Winter Olympics, the Summer Olympics and the Six Nations – appear in the top five for both sexes, albeit in a different order. And comparing top tens, it is only Royal Ascot and the French Open Tennis tournament which women favour over men (they are replaced by the US Masters and the British and Irish Lions Tour for men).

So where does the biggest difference lie? Well, surprise, surprise, it’s back to tennis again. Every tennis tournament ranks higher for women than it does for men (with the exception of Wimbledon, which is ranked at number one for both sexes).

As Bruce notes in his blog, the only two women on the Forbes list of the 100 best-paid athletes are tennis players – so perhaps role models and media starts like Serena Williams (and Nicola Adams) can make more difference to our perceptions of the Quality of a sport than some might think.

Whatever the case, we at SMG Insight wish you a happy International Women’s Day.

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Sara has over 20 years’ experience in the global market research industry. Since joining SMG Insight in October 2016 she has lead the consumer insight division, maximising the benefits offered to clients through the company’s advanced range of research techniques and its unique partnership with YouGov.