Ads with our favorite athletes all over social media, live television, and streaming services. Take Nike’s most recent ad. It showcases male and females athletes with side-by-side clips of them in their element, nearly even split. Narrated by United States soccer phenom Megan Rapinoe. This ad encompasses all different types of top tier athletes, regardless of gender.
But it wasn’t always that way. We are now just scratching the surface of equality in advertisements.
We didn’t see many advertisements with female athletes until the 2000s. If we did, they were usually created to be provocative, to appeal to a male-dominated market. According to Nicole LaVoi, who is an associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports at the University of Minnesota, found in a 2011 study that sex doesn’t sell sports. Further, she believes, men, who mostly oversee the creation of these ads are responsible for them being racy.
We have come a lot farther in terms of giving female athletes a platform and giving them ads and brand deals that don’t include sexual connotations. The Hulu ad from 2019 is a good example. The U.S. Women’s National soccer team is seen scoring a goal and celebrating – pretending to watch live sports on Hulu. They are doing what they do best, playing soccer, and more importantly, promoting the game for people to watch it. As a team who is constantly fighting and not stopping until they get the pay they deserve, this is a great ad to show not only how advertisements related to sports should be done, but also how the sports world is not a level playing field in terms of pay.
However, ads like that can be dangerous to the women in sports. Some view this as a team selling out. Hulu embraces that idea with the ad, which is what makes it funny, but imagine Tom Brady or Michael Phelps doing an ad for something that is so small, so off from what they actually do (winning Super Bowls and gold medals, respectively). People would be outraged.
So, this begs the question; is selling out beneficial to women’s sports? Actually, yes; and here’s why.
We all know about the pay gap in women’s sports. To put it into perspective, the highest salary in the WNBA in 2019 was $127,500. Conversely, Lebron James of the NBA is making 37.4 million a year. That’s just one example.
Sports make a lot of their money from broadcast rights. That money gets channeled back into the teams/league and into the player’s paychecks. In 2016 the NBA made 24 million dollars through a broadcast deal with ESPN. Further, the WNBA made a deal with CBS in 2019, the biggest broadcast contract in the league’s history. The numbers on how much it’s worth have not yet been released, so we can’t argue for or against just yet.
Women’s sports need more ad dollars. A lack of broadcast rights and contracts does affect how much money female athletes make. Getting paid to be promoted in ads is a great way for them to get extra money.