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Marketing and PR have helped Title IX, but how much?

Marketing and public relations have played big roles in the rise of women’s sports, but it’s been athletes on their own who have cemented their value.

The 50th anniversary of Title IX has brought about stories of old that many today can’t imagine. Until 1972, women weren’t provided resources to compete in sports at the highest level. Let’s face it – in some cases, they still aren’t, and it takes calling out organizing bodies to force compliance.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was created to protect people from discrimination based on gender. It states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Thanks to athletes realizing the power of their voices, women, in particular, have taken great strides to help sports grow in and away from competition.

“One of the most fascinating things we’ve seen in the last few years is that because mainstream marketers have largely ignored them, women athletes have gone outside traditional structure to build their brands,” USA Today columnist Nancy Armour said. “Policy and the usual way of doing business failed women’s sports, so they blazed their own path.”

That said, without Title IX, would we be at a place where businesses are investing in women’s sports in record numbers? As the old saying goes, we’ve come a long way, baby. 

But there are miles to travel. (See USA Today report about how some colleges and universities still game the system.)

“My initial thought is that it [marketing/PR] may well have had an impact, but there is obviously much work to be done and much room for growth in the marketing of women’s sports,” Amy Trask, a sports business trailblazer in her own right, said. “But in undertaking this analysis, how do we control for this variable; what if Title IX had never been enacted?”

If you look back to the days of when Billy Jean King, who is considered THE champion of women’s rights in sports, took Bobby Riggs’ challenge for Battle of the Sexes, to today’s greater media and business presence, women’s sports are in a good place — to grow. 

“Realize the current athletes are truly the first generation for whom T9 is an afterthought,” Armour said. “They don’t know any different so they’re less willing to put up with things the way they’ve always been.”


©Gail Sideman, publicity, 2022

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