- 80% of the population are more of aware of women’s sport since the launch of 20×20
- 61% are more likely to support women’s sport since the launch of 2020
- 75% of men say 20×20 changed their mindset positively towards women’s sport
- 42% of women say they are participating in more sport and physical activity than in 2018 due to awareness of 20×20
- 50% of the population and 60% of females say they would be more inclined to purchase from brands that support women’s sport
20×20, the movement originated and driven by the creative agency Along Came A Spider, and presented by the Federation of Irish Sport, came to a conclusion recently at a star-studded virtual event hosted by KPMG. 20×20 set out two years ago to create a measurable shift in the perception of women in sport in Ireland, so that it would be seen as something strong, valuable and worth celebrating.
The campaign would never have come to life without five Irish businesses championing the 20×20 mission, KPMG, AIG, Investec, Lidl and Three. All of Ireland’s National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships, as well as a host of third level institutions, schools and clubs around the country also showed their support and signed a 20×20 Charter.
A key objective for 20×20 was to make women’s sport a bigger part of Irish culture by making it more visible. Research commissioned by 20×20 and conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes, details significant success here with 80% of Irish adults – rising to 84% of Irish men – saying they are more aware of women’s sport now, than before the movement launched two years ago. Three quarters of those surveyed also say they believe that women’s sport is seen as cooler. Of those aware of the campaign, 73% – rising to 75% of men – say that 20×20 changed their mindset positively towards girls and women in sport, with 68% stating they support women in sport more because of 20×20, and 42% of women saying they now participate in more sport because of the movement.
Despite this progress though, women’s sport still lags far behind men’s sport when it comes to participation, attendance and media coverage. In terms of media coverage, research conducted by Nielsen at the outset of the campaign, found that just 4% of sport’s online coverage and 3% of sport’s print coverage was dedicated to women’s sport. By the end of 2019, each of these had grown by 2%, up to 5% for online and 6% for print. TV coverage of women’s sport meanwhile saw a 40% decrease in the same period, even though coverage of women’s sport grew across both RTÉ and TG4. Despite the decline in coverage levels, audience of women’s sport on TV grew from 7% in 2018 to 18% in 2019. Participation grew by 13% while attendance in women’s sport increased by 17% during this period.
Some other key findings came out of the research, including the fact that 73% of the general population (and 80% of sports fans) agreed that ‘greater visibility of women’s sports and athletes is crucial to grow women’s sport’. Similarly, over 3 in 4 of the general population believe sponsors should invest in both versions of sport and that sponsors should support women’s sport. Indeed, fans show higher purchase intentions for brands who sponsor women’s sport, with half of the population, – and 60% of females – also saying that they would be more inclined to purchase from brands that support women’s sport.
Speakers at the KPMG and 20×20 final campaign event included nine-time Wimbledon Champion Martina Navratilova, former Irish rugby international, Brian O’Driscoll and Olympic silver medalist at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Sonia O’Sullivan amongst others. All lauded the significant strides made by women’s sport in recent years yet warned against complacency given the scale of the job yet to be done.
The speakers at the concluding event highlighted the significant opportunity available for society, for media, for sponsors and for sport itself from continued growth of women’s sport. They cautioned that this would not just happen but would require investment, promotion and commitment from all of Irish sport’s stakeholder. They asked that today not be seen as an end of a journey but rather as a catalyst to ensuring the true potential of women’s sport is maximised for the benefit of all.
Speaking about the research, Sarah Colgan, CEO of Along Came A Spider and 20×20 founder said: “In October 2018 20×20 set out to create a shift in Irish culture and to begin a change in the value we place on women in sport in Irish society. We set a two-year window, up to October 2020 to have an impact. The results released today are hugely encouraging. The will to be progressive by all stakeholders in sport has got stronger, our female athletes are becoming unapologetic, fans are asking for more, voices are becoming louder, and a change has taken place in the Irish psyche. 20×20 became a national movement thanks to the support of Irish sport, Irish media, and the Irish public – in addition to the five Irish brands who made it possible. There is still a huge way to go to get to 50/50, and we are coming from a terribly low base, but the responsibility and the opportunity for everyone touching sport is huge now. We all need to set expectations high when it comes to women’s sport, to keep pushing for answers and questioning ourselves and what we see around us in order build on this momentum.”
CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, Mary O’Connor said: “We have all come a long way since 20×20 launched in 2018 and it was fantastic to hear today the shifts that are happening in our culture and in perception around women in sport. The research shows just how important that visibility, participation and attendance has meant for women in sport across the country, and as we close the curtain on this fantastic movement, we are hoping that everyone takes the baton that 20×20 is handing over and continues to run with it long into the future.”
Emer McGrath, Partner at KPMG added: “It was a huge honour for all of us at KPMG to be involved in today’s event and to help spread the message of 20×20 to more and more people. These past two years have been phenomenal for 20×20 and for all of us who are involved in sport in Ireland. We are thrilled to hear from the research that such strides have been made for women in sport in Ireland, and we pledge to continue to promote this message forward for many more years to come.”
Sonia O’Sullivan added: “20×20 has been a significant movement in Ireland not just for women, but for all of society. It is fantastic to hear that people’s perception of women in sport has changed over the past two years, and that is thanks to the fantastic work by everyone involved in sport to drive this message forward. Now, the future lies in our hands, and we all must take it upon ourselves to keep driving it forward, keep the coverage coming, keep attending women’s sporting events and keep participating.”