Female Fan Issues Go Far Beyond the Olympics

But we might have a solution

At the start of the Olympics, Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post wrote a powerful piece about what a turnoff the NBC packaged-Olympics has been for viewers. As a West Coaster myself, I can tell you—these last few weeks were quite a disappointing fan experience for a variety of reasons. But it goes beyond the viewing experience.

From the heavily edited event schedule to the misogynistic nature of commentators to the manner in which NBC executives have communicated their understanding of what female fans want — I ended up watching short clips and following social media about the Olympics instead of trying to tune in and watch. And I know I’m not alone here.

NBC’s Olympics coverage sparked a much bigger conversation that is at the core of our mission here at The Relish: how women are treated and thought about overall as fans. In fact, it’s why we created The Relish in the first place.

The misunderstanding of female fans is an issue that has gone on for far too long. We’ve talked about the problem with pinking and shrinking marketing strategies, and the issues gender stereotypes present in their misrepresentation about what’s at the core of what a huge percentage of female fans want. Take tweeter @kdubs10:

We see time and time again large networks make an attempt at speaking to female fans, only to swing and miss entirely, or leave us feeling like an afterthought. We notice that it sometimes takes a lot of digging to find the sports content that speaks to us in a meaningful way. The stuff that says, “Hey, I see you, I take you seriously, I get that your wants aren’t as linear or simplified as one might think.”… Few have been doing it, so we decided we would. Here’s how:

1. ) Delivering a variety of female-minded sports content

It needs to be okay for a woman to engage with sports content without the fear of being judged or belittled. It needs to be okay for a woman to turn on the Olympics and watch it live, in the moment, and have a place to talk about it. It needs to also be okay for a woman who likes sports but is just dipping her toe into the water to have a place to go without caring if she “knows it all.” It needs to be okay for women who want all the stats and those that prefer the narrative without thinking the latter doesn’t care about results. None of these women, none of these fans, want things dumbed down or delayed for hours.

2.) Creating a safe place to be an authentic fan

We’ve had a number of female fans tell us that they changed their user names in comments and forums to male names because they wanted to be taken more seriously. We’ve had women writing to us to say, “Finally, a place that makes me feel welcome!” Our internal research conducted in April revealed that women don’t feel taken seriously as fans, nor do they feel they have a place to go that speaks to them and enables them to engage in the conversation. We aim to be the place that changes things. The place that empowers and enables and inspires and doesn’t stand for or tolerate ignorant statements such as this one:

3.) Staying on stop of new media trends

We can certainly applaud NBC for having Olympics content available to stream, even if it wasn’t executed in an ideal fashion. At least they see that online is where most people are focusing their attention these days (and have been for a while). But, we also know that consumption of media is ever-changing. Knowing ones audience, their habits and their trends is something we as well as many new media organizations know is important.

4.) Realizing that it’s okay not to be everything to everyone

Speaking of trends, there is an interesting one happening in media in which niche brands are coming onto the scene to cater to specific audiences. These tend to be the companies that do best in their growth. The ones who are hyper focused on serving a specific segment of an underserved market. While NBC is certainly not the only culprit in not really getting female fans, they are the most recent example of the issue, which continues to reveal the long overdue need for a place that focuses on connecting with us.

As female fans, we constantly have to sift through site and information that is absolutely not catered to us in order to find content we want to consume. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman who goes to a section like this or this and thinks, “This site really speaks to me.”

We know we can’t be everything to every single female fan out there. We know that there may very well be female fans who want their sports packaged in the way they’re currently provided in other places, and that’s great and we support that. We support the idea of people feeling heard and spoken to. But rest assured, we wake up in the morning, spend our whole day and go to bed at night thinking about the many people that make up this audience: the female fan.

We are The Relish, a new voice for female fans. There are no pop-quizzes to prove you’re a fan. No judgments if you obsess over one sport,
but couldn’t care less about another. And if you are a watercooler World Series fan if and only if your team makes it? That’s cool, too. We celebrate all that female fans love about sports.

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