UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A plan to increase the popularity of women’s pro sports by reaching out to millennials and embracing streaming video platforms has won first place in a contest sponsored by Penn State’s Center for the Study of Sports in Society.
Steve Connelly, a senior public relations major and reporter and editor for Onward State, will receive a $300 gift certificate to the Student Book Store in State College for his proposal. Sydney Haykel and Rebecca Evanitsky earned honorable mentions in the contest, and each will receive $100 gift certificates. The bookstore is an official sponsor of the contest.
The center, which promotes research and discussion of major sports issues across academic disciplines, issued a challenge to undergraduates early in the semester to write an essay of no more than 1,200 words on ways to boost the popularity of women’s professional sports, which lags behind that of their male counterparts.
Connelly argued in his winning essay that women’s pro leagues should focus on marketing to the millennial generation, both in terms of on-site attendance and as viewers who are more likely than other age groups to watch games through streaming platforms. He cited the success of the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League, who had average attendance of about 17,000 a game last year, as a successful adopter of the strategy of marketing to young adults. Connelly also said that, as more people break from traditional cable television subscriptions, women’s pro leagues are well positioned to take advantage of streaming deals.
Haykel earned her honorable mention for an essay that called on cable networks to increase the availability of women’s sports on TV in return for a cut of merchandising and other revenue, and also suggested male pro leagues do more to provide funding to female counterpart leagues. Evanitsky argued that women’s leagues need to stress community engagement and fan experience at games to gain popularity.
Another student research challenge around an issue in college sports is tentatively planned for the fall semester.