In 2019, I learned that less than 1% of all sports sponsorship dollars and 4% of sports media coverage go to women athletes. As a woman and former college athlete, hearing these statistics hurt. This data also doesn’t align with what women athletes are achieving on the field. When I learned these stats, I had just witnessed the sensational triumph of the US Women’s National Soccer Team at the World Cup. On top of this, these athletes are leading the way off the field too as social justice advocates, mothers, entrepreneurs and more.
Women athletes are icons. They have already arrived, and I started The Pivot - an online platform that connects pro women athletes to partnership opportunities alongside brands - to accelerate their RISE. The Pivot puts the power of the woman athlete front and center and strives to create an environment where their influence can be recognized and fueled.
I left my job at Major League Soccer (MLS) in the summer of 2019 to attend business school at Stanford. At MLS, I had the fun job of helping launch new teams and supporting strategic initiatives for the League’s executives and our Board of Governors. I was inspired every day by our mission and the people I worked with. Because we sat at the intersection of a fascinating ecosystem of media partners, sponsors, agents, athletes and even governments, I gained a unique perspective on the business model of sports and entertainment. As my time at MLS came to a close, I began to compare the business models of men’s and women’s sports.
And I came to one important conclusion: they weren’t that different. Women’s sports have traditionally employed similar media, sponsorship and athlete support strategies as their male counterparts. Because of this model, access to opportunities off the field (women athletes getting sponsorship money, for example) has been concentrated in a small percentage of women athletes. The level of support pro women athletes receive in managing their off-field life is highly variable - the top 1% have entire teams that advocate for them in deals, while many of their teammates and competitors are left without much direction. (It’s important to note that support across men athletes is also variable, but the floor for the support that is provided to the average men athlete is so much higher.) Incredible strides have been achieved in women’s sports through this transfer of knowledge from men’s sports, but I also believe that women’s sports are missing growth opportunities because they’re constantly forced into the same framework and ways of doing business as their male counterparts - who are simply at a different stage of their lifecycle. So, I’ve decided to try something different.
The Pivot breaks down the traditional framework of sports business by making sponsorship and marketing opportunities accessible to all pro women athletes, not just a select few, using technology. We’re democratizing the way women athletes can monetize their unique position in the world. Companies and athletes use our online platform to discover ways to partner with each other, and we’ve built a structured process into our technology that makes every interaction transparent and empowering for everyone involved. (Special shoutout to my partner, Dylan, who built our tech and is the most thoughtful and supportive person I know!) Just since last fall, we’ve welcomed almost 50 pro women athletes into our community who have executed over 30 partnerships using our platform. Through The Pivot, women athletes have become brand ambassadors, been the faces of product launch campaigns, spoken at virtual events to celebrate women empowerment and even launched charitable giving initiatives alongside companies. We’ve also run workshops on social media best practices and are building a network with sports agents to support them as well.
It’s hard to explain how energizing it is to build a space for women athletes to be valued in the way that they deserve and bring to life opportunities that didn’t exist previously. Each day, I’m inspired by the women athletes in our community who are challenging the status quo for what it means to be a woman and an athlete, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn from their hard work and perspective on the world. As I speak with companies looking to join our platform, I love sharing our vision for women athletes and the creative ways for brands to work with a community that represents values many strive to reflect: perseverance, diversity, respect...it all gets me pretty hyped!
And we’re not stopping here. In addition to making more partnerships happen between women athletes and companies using our technology- and community-driven approach, we’re exploring ways for women athletes to build stronger ties with their fans. I’m looking to the world of technology and creators for some inspiration, and I know that if we incorporate these learnings and innovations into the business model of sports - especially when it comes to supporting women athletes - we’ll unlock doors we had never even considered and achieve the unthinkable. But women exceeding expectations is nothing new, right?