You shouldn’t be trying to force more coverage of women’s sports, that will only have a negative effect – people saying I don’t care about this or I don’t want to see it. You have to give people something interesting or entertaining so that they don’t feel like they’re being force fed something they have no interest in.
You should be focusing on identifying certain women in different sports as key people to get people interested. Look at the likes of what Megan Rapinoe has done for women’s soccer. She gets a huge amount of attention (and abuse) for her personality but she’s brought much more attention to women’s soccer and everyone knows who she is, for better or for worse. In my opinion, you should be trying to identify characters like this in different sports and big up their personalities and opinions. I know if I was going to watch a women’s soccer game, I’d rather Megan Rapinoe was playing so I could see what she’s like as a footballer.
Look at Roy Keane. He retired almost 15 years ago but he is still one of Ireland’s most popular sports stars due to his outlandish personality. He was an incredible football player but he has remained relevant because of his “no nonsense” attitude and fearlessness of speaking out. Videos continue to go viral because people are interested in hearing his most recent scathing remarks. He has an abundance of personality supported by a sparkling sporting career.
I and the vast majority of the general public don’t care about any male runners or rowers or swimmers. Why would it be different for females? I care about interesting characters and personalities and extraordinary skill or ability in their sport. People aren’t going to get excited about sportspeople with very little personality or people with average ability in their sport. That is the same regardless of gender.
Usain Bolt has both personality and extraordinary skill, people love him and everyone wants to know more about him. The interest in Paul and Gary O’Donovan skyrocketed in 2016 because they were funny and entertaining in interviews – their personalities went viral, not their races. There are female athletes in rowing who have been achieving, but people are not connecting with them as much because they don’t share their personalities.
People love Katie Taylor. She is an exceptional athlete, competing at such a high standard but she also has a likeable personality. While she isn’t in the limelight all the time (which sometimes adds to the mystery), she shows qualities as a person that people admire. You could argue that Katie Taylor could be even more well known if she put herself out there more, but her extraordinary ability and exceptional story has put her on the map and made her popular sporting personality.
He’s an absolute tool but look at what McGregor did for MMA. No one talked about it until he came along and made it exciting. In my opinion, women’s sports need more characters like this otherwise it will never warrant large mainstream coverage. Since McGregor captured people’s imagination it has had a positive effect on MMA with more young people taking up martial arts, more people taking an interest in the sport and more lesser known fighters they never would have got to know otherwise.
Look at sports which are seen to be more balanced between genders. In wrestling and MMA, people are interested in the personalities and the different styles of the fighters. I couldn’t tell you much about the Irish women’s rugby team because I see it as boring because I don’t know anything about them and there’s no stand out personalities. If I got to see more of their personalities, knew more of their stories, then I would be more interested in following their games.
Bottom line, more interesting characters are needed to capture people’s attention otherwise people won’t care irrespective of gender.