Women Now Make Up 47% of All NFL Fans

The makeup of NFL fans continues to diversify, thanks in large to women who now make up 47% of the league’s total fanbase. In celebration of Women’s History Month, the NFL announced this new percentage of female fans, which according to the league equates to 88 million to its fans. More women watched Super Bowl LIV than the Grammys, Oscars and Emmys combined. 

The NFL’s female fanbase has grown exponentially over the past decade. This rise in fans can certainly be attributed to the league’s growth in popularity, aided by a nonstop calendar that churns out news and rolls out tentpole events at a lighting pace. Fantasy football becoming a commonplace hobby is another key factor.

But the NFL has also invested hefty resources in growing its female fanbase. Women’s apparel has frequently been the league’s fastest growing ancillary business in recent years. Clothing lines from Alyssa Milano and more recently Erin Andrews have graced sporting good stores. 

Many teams also have women’s club designed at coalescing and welcoming more female fans. Purple, the Ravens’ club for women is now in its 14th year and offers events ranging from clinics with coaches to wine tasting. The 49ers launched WON (Women of the Niners) a few years ago, as did the Redskins through their similarly titled WOW (The Women of the Washington Redskins).  There are plenty more across the league. All the clubs share3 the common quest to cater to an array of female fans. The Ravens website innocently explains the goal of Purple on its website: “Although there may be varying levels of knowledge and awareness in the team or football in general, the Ravens are the central theme bringing this group of wonderfully eclectic women together.”

Herein lies one issue in how the league markets to women. The NFL markets its product to men as a machismo, rough, hard core, beer-guzzling, buddy experience with the assumption that this section of fans knows the game.  Women are treated more delicately, with a stark acknowledgement that there are various levels of fanhood. (Pssst: There are plenty of male NFL fans who could be characterized as ‘beginners.’) 

Still this landscape is an improvement over the early days of women’s clubs which were almost always littered with “Football 101 for Women “events. Then came the pink it and shrink it jerseys, the ‘fanicures ‘and other marketing ploys that were more girly than gridiron. 

These days we have a burgeoning pipeline of women who have earned coaching and scouting positions on NFL teams, not to mention more women in broadcasting, analytics and other types of x’s and o’s type roles. 

The NFL still continues to be fraught with issues as it pertains to its female fanbase, in large part its inability to enact an effective domestic violence policy, but despite the flaws, women are coming to the sport in droves. Next stop? 50%