The Women’s World Cup, The Tour De France Femmes, And A Historical X Games Are Approaching
FORBES, JULY 6TH, 2023 BY Liz Elting
In the world of sports, this summer is set to be a thrilling one, particularly for women’s sports. This month, the stage is set for not one, not two, but three events representing the highest level of competition in soccer, cycling, and skateboarding.
The 2023 Women’s World Cup kicks off July 20, the second Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is off to the races July 23, and this year’s X Games, featuring the first ever Women’s Best Trick competition and the return of Women’s Vert for the first time since 2010, drops in July 21. Each of these events is arguably the most important in its respective sport, bringing together the world’s best athletes on the biggest stage. They are also each at different points in their development, and help tell the story of the past, present, and future of women’s fight for a fair shot not only in sports but at large as well.
Now in its ninth edition, the Women’s World Cup is a highly anticipated staple. Every four years at the height of summer, it takes over our screens, packs stadiums, sports bars, and town squares with screaming fans, and is one of the most watched sporting events in the U.S and around the world. The U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) boasts a roster of bona fide celebrities and household names revered as national heroes. And with high-profile brand sponsorship and major network broadcasting, the Women’s World Cup has become wildly popular, but it wasn’t always so. First held in 1991 with little acknowledgement or fanfare (and not even the World Cup name, as FIFA didn’t want the brand associated with a women’s tournament), the competition garnered little attention. When the USWNT returned home as the first ever women’s soccer world champions, they were greeted by a grand total of three fans.
But—thanks in large part to the U.S. women’s unrelenting grassroots marketing efforts off the field (the now legendary ‘99ers ran youth training camps, stayed long after every single match to sign autographs, and even sold tickets on the sidelines to promote the 1999 Women’s World Cup), and their inspiring dominance on the field, along with continued buy-in from major brands and network broadcasting—the Women’s World Cup has cemented its place as a cultural phenomenon.
While parity in the sport is a long ways off—women’s soccer players are still paid less, if at all, and have to fight for quality fields and amenities the men are afforded by default—the success and popularity of the Women’s World Cup offers a glimpse into the future and potential of women’s sports. Moreover, it and the USWNT are clear proof that when you invest in women, it pays off. Incredibly young by comparison, the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is approaching its second year. After what was heralded as a wildly successful first year, women in the sport are holding their breath to see if the event can garner the investment, sponsorships, and media attention needed to sustain its ascent. Its continued success hinges on whether brands will continue supporting the sport as well as if networks will give it the broadcasting opportunity to reach and grow its audience. Wise investors know that investments take time to pay off, but the question is whether women cyclists will be given the time, support, and continued investment needed to get off the ground and become profitable. All too often—and not just in sports—women aren’t always afforded that luxury, and find themselves having the rug pulled out from under them before they can even get their footing.
Which brings us to this year’s X Games. In the late 1990s and early aughts, as skateboarding went mainstream and pro skateboarders catapulted to stardom, it seemed like the sport was finally opening up for women. But just as women began making headway, the few opportunities they had were ripped away. Without warning, the X Games abruptly canceled the Women’s Vert competition, devastating athletes who had been training to compete and dashing any hopes they had of sustaining their careers. This year, things may finally be turning around. With the rise of young superstars—like Lizzie Armanto, Sky Brown, Rayssa Leal, Ruby Lilley, Arisa Trew, and Olympic gold medalist Momiji Nishiya—who in addition to progressing women’s skateboarding have also built commanding followings in the millions on social media (undeniably demonstrating women skaters’ profitability), the X Games 2023 is set to be a pivotal moment for women skateboarders. This year, the biggest competition in skateboarding is finally bringing back Women’s Vert and will also feature the first ever Women’s Best Trick competition. All three of these events are going to be action-packed affairs, showcasing spectacular feats of athleticism—along with the incredible passion, inspiring stories, and head-turning drama that comes with the best of sporting events—and showing the world what women are capable of. As a woman, I have incredibly high hopes for the athletes competing this summer, and I can’t wait to cheer them on. As a business person, I know that with the right investment, women’s sports—and each of these competitions—have the ability to be wildly successful and profitable.