Hits and Misses: Sports Marketing, Gender, and Society || Radcliffe Institute

Hits and Misses: Sports Marketing, Gender, and Society || Radcliffe Institute


[INTRO MUSIC PLAYING] – Good afternoon, everyone,
delighted you’re here. I’m Liz Cohen. I’m Dean of the Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study. And I want to express
a special welcome to the alumnae who are here
for the first Harvard Women’s Weekend. And thank you to the
Harvard Alumni Association and other alumni organizers for
bringing everyone together here today and for the
rest of the weekend. It’s a pleasure to welcome you
all to this panel discussion on Sports Marketing,
Gender, and Society. And I should say that when
we planned this event, we knew that we were addressing
an important and timely topic. But revelations this week
about Harvard men’s soccer team and the Harvard women’s
soccer team response that was published in
the Harvard Crimson has made it very clear that
this topic was timely, indeed. At the Radcliffe institute
for Advanced Study, we convene scholars,
policymakers, scientists, and artists around many topics. They come from all
over Harvard University and around the globe to
work across disciplines and at the forefront
of their fields. We are also committed
to sharing new knowledge and thought provoking
conversation and discussion, like the one we will have
today, with a very broad public. And we retain breadth
of colleges’ commitment to the study of women and
gender through one of our core programs, the
Schlesinger Library on the History of
American Women, and through much of
our other programming. For example, every year
we hold a conference that examines a pressing issue
through the lens of gender. Last year’s conference was
entitled Ways With Words, Exploring Language and Gender. And the year before that it was
called Confronting Violence. I hope that many
of you will return for this year’s
conference, which is entitled Game Changers,
Sports, Gender, and Society. It will begin on the evening
of Thursday, April 6th and then continue all
through the next day, Friday, April 7th. And you could say that today’s
event panel is in many ways a preface to that larger
conference in April. The entire April conference,
like many of our programs, will be live streamed
and available afterwards on our website. So if you can’t get
back to Cambridge, you can still enjoy it. Today we are delighted
to host this panel in the Knafel Center, a place
with a distinctly athletic history. Until 1977, this
building was a gymnasium for the women of
Radcliffe College. Students ran laps around the
track that’s above our heads. They climbed ropes,
and you can see some of the scars of much
of the gym equipment. And they formed their
own basketball team starting in 1895,
long before they had access to the
leagues, the uniforms, and the other resources that
Harvard men took for granted. Certainly, much has changed. But damaging social
attitudes persist, and not just among the members
of the Harvard men’s soccer team. Female competitors continue to
exercise their athletic talents to less acclaim and for
smaller financial rewards than their male counterparts do. Advertising provides
a revealing window into these stubborn prejudices. Take for instance, one of
the most enduring and iconic examples of sports marketing. Wheaties has been featuring
athletes on their cereal boxes since 1934. In the very first year of this
now classic marketing strategy, a woman did appear on the box. She was Eleanor Smith, a pilot,
who remains the only person to have flown a plane under all
four bridges of New York’s East River. Unfortunately, Smith
turned out to be an outlier in more ways than one. It would be 50 years
before Wheaties featured another woman. In 1984, and many of
you will remember this, when Olympic gymnast,
Mary Lou Retton, appeared on the
familiar orange box, children could finally
see a celebration of female athleticism as they
ate their breakfast cereal. Three decades later, I’m
glad to say that women do appear on Wheaties boxes. And two women have even made
it onto Forbes magazine’s list of the highest paid athletes. But female athletes
continue to face disparities in pay, in endorsement
deals, and in media coverage. In 2014, only 2% of
Sports Center air time covered women’s sports. And a recent lawsuit by
the US women’s soccer team revealed that some
professional male soccer players are paid four times more
than their female counterparts. The multi-faceted issue
of women in sports is best addressed from
multiple perspectives, which is why we have brought
together this very fine group of panelists today. Their discussion
will be moderated by Janet Ridge Edwards. Janet is the faculty director of
Radcliffe’s Biological Science programming, and one of the two
organizers of the Game Changers conference about gender
and sports that I mentioned will be coming up in April. Janet is a Radcliffe alum
and an epidemiologist with dual appointments at
the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan
School of Public Health. She currently serves as Director
of Developmental Epidemiology at the Connor’s Center for
Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham
and Women’s Hospital. So please join me now
in welcoming Janet. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Liz, and
welcome everybody. This is a great turnout. I want to just start by
putting a little bit more of a plug for that
April conference. Because we hope to
lure you all back here. We’re going to
have three panels. The first one on
who gets to play. Talking about issues of
gender, race, class, ability, and who gets to play. We’re going to have Donna
Lopiano come, the former CEO of the Women’s
Sports Foundation, as well as past President of the
Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. And we’re going to have
Stephanie Wheeler, who won gold in the women’s
wheelchair basketball in both Athens and Beijing,
and is now the head coach for the women’s team. We will also have a panel
on gender sports, health, and wellness. And that will feature,
among others, Travis Tygart, who’s CEO of the US
Anti-doping Agency, which should prove interesting. And then we’ll have a
panel on gender, media, and popular culture. We’ll have speakers on
masculinity in sports. We’ll have some
sports journalists, and we’ll talk about
transnational issues. And for our keynote
address, we’re going to have Laila Ali
come talk, both about her experience as an athlete,
but also how that translates. Issues of femininity, what
you’re allowed to say. And I think it’ll be a really
stimulating discussion on that. I want to take a second to talk
about the elephant in the room on this campus this week. I imagine most of you have
heard about the– I don’t even know what to call it. Well, first of all the
general counsel’s review of the sexually explicit
and vulgar scouting report put together by the
2012 men’s soccer team and I gather from the press
coverage that has continued. The women who were
targeted in this report have written a brilliant and
powerful op-ed in response to this scouting report. And if you haven’t read
it, I encourage you to. It’s really quite inspiring. And if you just Google
women’s soccer Harvard op-ed, you’ll find it. This morning, I think it was,
Bill Littlefield commented on their powerful
letter in response to the witless cruelty of
the original attack on them. I want to quote a little
bit from this op-ed because I really
found it impressive. The women say, and this is the
six women writing together, “This document attempts to
pit us against one another, as if the judgment of a few
men is sufficient to determine our worth. But men, we know
better than that. 18 years of soccer
taught us that. 18 years as successful,
powerful, and undeniably brilliant female
athletes taught us that.” And they go on to say, “We’re
hopeful that the release of this report will lead
to productive conversation and action on Harvard’s campus
within collegiate athletic teams across the country,
and into the locker room that is our world.” And I’m pleased to say that’s
what we’re here to do today. Let me introduce to you
our three panelists. First, we have
Jessica Gellman, who is the CEO– yeah, come on up,
thank you– Of Kraft Analytics Group, which is
focused on the data management, advanced analytics,
and strategic marketing for the Kraft family business. She’s been there 15 years. The Krafts, of
course, as the owners of the New England Patriots,
Gillette Stadium, and the New England Revolution. Her responsibilities there
include business operations, customer marketing,
and strategy. So look at her to talk about
the gendered aspects of that. She, I’m also pleased to say,
was Harvard Female Athlete of the Year after leading
Harvard’s women’s basketball teams two consecutive Ivy
League and NCAA tournament appearances. And has been cited by both
the Sports Business Journal and Sports Business
Journal– So it was twice by the Sport’s Business
Journal as a game changer. Then we’ll have Dan
Peterson– come on up, Dan– who is currently
the Director of Content at AdmitHub, an ed tech startup. He’s also written and edited
for ESPN Boston for eight years, covered World Cup, and
managed sports news coverage for the local ESPN sites
in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, LA, and New York. And he’s very interested
in changing the way we talk about women’s sports. The amount of coverage
and what we do cover when we cover
female athletes. And then finally,
Shira Springer, who writes a column on women’s
sports for the Boston Globe and covers sports and society
for both NPR and WBUR. Her coverage of the
Celtics, the NBA, has earned her awards from the
Associated Press Sports Editors for Investigative and
Explanatory Journalism. And also from the
Women’s Sports Foundation for her future writing. She’s covered all of Boston’s
major professional sports teams, as well as the Boston
Marathon, Olympics, local and national college athletics. She’s appeared on numerous ESPN
programs, MSNBC, CNN, and NPR. And I can say she is about
to run the New York marathon, I think, not for the
first time, this Sunday. So please welcome our panelists. [APPLAUSE] What we’ll do is we’ll give
everybody about ten minutes to give their perspective. We’ll have a little bit of
a discussion between us. And then we’ll open up the
floor for your comments and questions. Will we have a mic? At that point. OK, great. – Hi. Good afternoon, everyone. So this is great. This is really fun to be here. Do we have any
Patriots fans here? [CHEERING] OK, good. I like to see that. So I’m going to provide a
little perspective about how we think about marketing
and specifically, the steps that we have taken, I guess
over the last ten years, to market to women and start
to reach that fan base. The Krafts have always
been incredibly forward thinking about
understanding our customers and thinking about
our customers. And so we started to make
very significant investments in the early 2000s when we were
really winning our first Super Bowls. And I think just to try
and get that single view of our customer across
our organization, I think those investments
that we were making then we weren’t really
necessarily thinking, how is this going to
impact women and how we think about marketing to women? But as we started getting all of
this data about our customers, their opens, their
clicks in emails, where they’re purchasing, what
they were purchasing, tickets, concerts, what products they
were purchasing at the Patriots Pro Shops or online, or whatever
the different things and how fans were engaging with us. We started to get a
better understanding of who we were serving and
who we weren’t serving. So our approach, I’ll give
you just a quick overview of how we think about
marketing during my time with specifically
the sports group. And then the
efforts that we have done it’s impacted
us very positively, ultimately, such that we spun
out the Kraft Analytics Group. The Kraft Sports Group is still
an area that we, as a client, I guess I would call it. But we sit down in the stadium
and I do have a Super Bowl ring here from a couple years ago. So you guys can come get
pictures after if you’d like. But our approach to marketing
is something called behavior based marketing, which we have
been doing for seven years. But it’s very common now,
it wasn’t seven years ago. But it’s all the
stuff that you hear about on Facebook
and Google, which is we’re looking at
the actual behaviors that our customers take and
altering our communication and messaging. And/or we’re trying to predict
what actions they might take or that might be negative
to us and that we might want to change
through our messaging. So we’re trying to
make them, obviously, more loyal, more engaged. Or, if they’re new
to our organization, how do we define
that they’re going to be a great customer or
someone who might quickly fall out as a customer. So we think about
this through what we call the three Cs, which
is channel, consumption, and content. So the channel is direct
mail, email, phone, and how can we leverage
the different mechanisms and technology that
are out there today to better communicate. What has happened really
specifically for us in the past seven
or eight years, but then more at a micro
level in the past three to four years, is that
one to one marketing. So everyone kind of
understands channel. Consumption is the way
that you’re actually getting the content. So obviously, there
was a big shift. Many of you guys will read
emails on your phone today. Three or four years
ago we were just starting to see that
shift from people reading on their computers to
reading on their phones or on apps or on social media. And I think for
all of you to think about how we have altered the
design of our communications for people to be able to
more easily read emails if it’s on their phone
versus at their desk. And then the last component is
the actual content or product. So the content in
our case is it could be about the Patriots
team specifically, the X’s and O’s of what’s
happening on the field. Which I would say was
a huge focus for us for a very long time
in investing in people. Like what Shira was
doing with the Celtics many, many years
ago to understand what happened in the game. But again, it wasn’t
really the softer side. So as we were sending
out communications and we were getting more
details on what people were reading and
weren’t reading, and who was clicking
on what, we definitely identified an
under-served market, which was obviously
women, which is what I’m going to talk about now. So we began about five
years ago a process to understand how we
could better engage women. And we did a bunch
of research, we looked at what other
organizations in sports were doing. And we saw, for
example, that the Ravens had created a specific
club that had events. We ultimately
decided that wasn’t the avenue we wanted to go. And we got a bunch of people
in a room, men, women, different ages,
and we just started talking about what is
content that we don’t think is out there. And ultimately, we came
up with this concept called the Patriots’
Lifestyle, which we launched three years ago. And it’s on our
website and it is geared towards all of
the things that you hear people talk about
at the Olympics, which is the softer side, the
humanizing of the players. But when we go and
play, we’re playing in San Francisco in
a few weeks, talking about what are the things, as
a Patriots fan, that you might want to go see there, right? Or what are the clothes
that the team is wearing, the players are wearing? I mean, we were having
some fun with what we saw in like In Touch in Us Weekly. So what was interesting there
is that originally, we thought it was geared towards women. But what we ultimately found
is that it wasn’t geared towards women, it was geared
toward the general fan, the person who didn’t really
care whether we were playing a nickel defense,
a zone defense, or the deep, deep stuff. But just wanted to
understand the team and the personalities behind it. So when we first launched
it, we didn’t really know how Patriots
Lifestyle was going to do. And after the first year,
which was a couple years ago, five of our top ten most viewed
articles were the Lifestyle. So it was a hugely
under served content piece, originally
geared towards women, but I think the end
game is that it isn’t just women that are reading it. And it’s really fun content, and
we have a great time with it. So that’s example number one. The second example that
I think is important is about the actual clothing
gear that we have and offer. Nike came in about
six years ago, and there’s a number
of other 47 brands. In Touch, the Alyssa
Milano clothing line is very like soft. It was not Patriot
specific or team specific. And we were looking at what
was selling in our store and who was buying it. And what is interesting
as we did surveys to try and understand
what people were buying and what we needed
more of, we did notice that men only bought
for men, but women bought for women and men. But a lot of the feedback
when we were surveying to try and understand what
we could do to improve, and so there was a lot of
women that we were surveying, they were buying for men. We didn’t have great
product for women. So we really focused on,
and it’s a long process, it takes a year to buy the right
product and then to get it in. It’s a lengthy process. So we started and
the results were very significant and
profound right away. We jumped by about 10% in
terms of the women’s product that was selling. Such to the effect
that we ultimately decided to create
a women and kids focused store at
Patriot Place that’s separate from the
Patriots Pro Shop. It’s called the Pro
Shop Collection, and geared it more towards
what you might see at a mall or in a big shopping
area where there is a loungy component to it. There’s still obviously a huge
team-based component to it. But in addition to having
images of the players within the store, there’s also images
of kids wearing Patriots gear and women’s. And we had another store before
we converted into this store. And this particular
Pro Shop Collection, it more than tripled what
that other store was doing. So we were looking
at information data and making business decisions
to reach a fan demographic that was obviously under served. And I think it’s a
great credit to the Kraf to have the foresight
to think about data and what it might uncover,
but then actually go ahead and make that investment. And organizationally,
I think the number of women who are joining our
wait list or coming to games has also increased as we’ve
been making those changes. So we’re being more
welcoming to our fans and it’s had a very
positive effect. So I don’t know if I
talked for ten minutes, but that’s what you’ve got. – Great, thank you. Dan, go ahead. – So my story begins
about ten years ago. I was a high school
English teacher, a football and basketball coach in LA. And that summer of
2007 I quit my job, I moved back east
to New Haven to live with my, now, wife who is in
the audience with us today. She was working on her PhD in
History at Yale at the time, and now we’re back
here in Cambridge. She’s a resident
Dean at Lowell House. We’ve got strong
Lowell connections across the panel in the
room today, very proud. So anyway, six months
after I moved back, ESPN made the obvious
move to hire me in my stunning
lack of experience. Needless to say, I was
psyched to take a part time job working nights at a
fraction of my teacher’s salary. But in all seriousness,
I was excited. I was excited to work
with professional writers, and editors, and producers,
passionate people, that loved what I was doing. I would be procrastinating
during the work day, looking at ESPN.com. Now it w like, great, I
get to provide that escape and that infotainment for
other workaday hacks, too. And I really loved
the idea of trying to fulfill ESPN’s
mission, which I got on a little card along
with my ID that first day. The mission statement says,
“To serve sports fans wherever sports are watched, listened to,
discussed, debated, read about, or played.” And over the ensuing
seven or eight years, I worked with a lot of
talented and dedicated folks who were and are trying to
fulfill that mission every day. It’s an ambitious mission. It’s basically, let’s be
everything to everyone, with anything that
has to do with sports. Is it realistic? I don’t know, but you
know I think it governed a lot of what we talked about. It’s ambitious, it’s
diffuse, it’s overly broad. But I think it’s
noble, in some sense. How well did we do
fulfilling that mission? I think really, really
well for some things. For the sports that dominate the
airwaves on ESPN, Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA, college
football, men’s basketball, we do a great job. What I think we realize all
the time is that we struggle to do justice to serve
that mission for fans of other sports,
especially women’s sports, especially women’s team sports. And looking back at those
eight years at ESPN, there’s a few things that
really just stood out to me in terms of
what media’s role is in this discussion
of sports and gender. First, I kind of
alluded to, we take for granted that men’s
sports and particularly the big three in the US,
football, baseball, basketball. We should parse and examine
them from every single possible angle, constantly all the time. We take that for granted. Conversely, the scope of
women’s sports coverage is largely limited to
individual superstars, to exceptional feats, and
incredible performances. Top of the top that you can’t
ignore from the women’s sports teams. And thirdly, we get some
periodic news cycles that are predictable
and get sprinkled in. We get two weeks of the
Olympics every four years. We get championship week in the
spring for some of the quote, unquote “non-revenue”
college sports. So here and gone in
a flash of an eye. Third, most devastatingly
most noticeable, is that disparity
in the way that we look at athletes’ physical
prowess and ability. Too many of us in the
media, in fans, at the bar, in the locker room,
wherever it is, we fall into this
sexist double standard that we’ve been talking
about for a long time but topical today
more than ever. Where we marvel and we
celebrate male athletes’ bodies for their incredible
function and utility. Wow, so fast, so strong. He’s so big, he’s
so tall, incredible. And on the other
hand, female bodies are still primarily
judged on attractiveness, objectified by sex appeal. And women’s bodies are the
same as men in terms of sports. They’re built to do certain
things very, very, very well. But when that falls out
of a certain notion, the conversation turns
negative in a hurry in a way that it just doesn’t for men. First things first then,
talking about exceptional women, exceptional individual women. Especially those that combine
that talent with attractiveness are the women that got
covered by and large more than anything else. If you look at the page
one headlines on any given day on ESPN, to be fair
we’re covering every sport, we’re doing scores, we’re trying
to do everything for everyone. But that front page that you
go, to those headline news items are dominated by the successes
and the failures, the injuries, the misdeeds, the misfortunes,
legal troubles of big names and top teams. It’s hard for women to
crack that threshold of what’s deemed page one
worthy for the widest, broadest audience. But there are some
women that can hang with the likes of Lebron,
Tiger, Kobe, A-Rod, Peyton. Serena Williams comes to
mind as someone that has battled to get on that level. So has Maria
Sharapova has battled to get on that level, which
incidentally are the two women that are on that highest list. They’re the only two women among
the 100 highest paid athletes in the world last year. But they have faced criticism
and dismissive attitudes that men in similar positions
have never had to deal with. Serena, because
of her skin color, because of her body type. Sharapova because she was
in that Anna-Kournikova mold of style, all
style, no substance. She reached number one. She’s won multiple grand slams. She’s forced herself to be
a part of the conversation based on her ability,
endorsements and looks and sex appeal aside. So those women have made it
and those women have made it onto that coverage. And some other women have
been able to, as well. Talking about the ten highest
paid female athletes, eight tennis players plus
Ronda Rousey, the MMA fighter, and Danica
Patrick, NASCAR driver. Obviously, again, physical
appearance, attractiveness, is playing a role in most
of those women’s ability to get endorsement contracts. And some other women do make
it onto that national stage. But again, it’s
periodic, cyclical. Ronda Rousey, when
she’s promoting a fight. Simone Biles and Ali Raisman
here during the Olympics. Lindsey Vonn during
the Olympics, maybe during the World
Cup winter season. But again, those are kind of
predictable and they fade. Are we going to be talking
about Simone next year? I don’t know. Shira knows the answer. So the second aspect, though,
in terms of winning coverage at ESPN and on a
national level is that some teams are
too good to be ignored, regardless of what any public
attitude or what people deem as fans are interested in. And I think my very first
weeks at ESPN I saw this. I started in March of 2008. So it’s Spring
Training, March Madness is the big topic for
those weeks, right? Anybody remember who was the
men’s NCAA champion in 2008? Pop quiz. Kansas. Kansas beat Memphis overtime
game, pretty good game. Bill Self’s first
national title at Kansas. Great coverage, tons of
stories about all the top 25 teams that whole season. Anybody remember who was the
women’s champion in 2008? Good guess. Good guess. Always a good guess, but no. It was not UCONN. Tennessee, you got it, right? Pat Summitt, Tennessee goes
back to back those years. Pat Summitt’s eighth national
title, exceptional woman, exceptional team. She’s, at that
point, was already the all time winningest coach,
men’s or women’s basketball history. And we did some great stories. We did really good stories
about her and about that team. And to a lesser extent,
the UCONN women, the Stanford women. And then it just dropped off. And really, even
Tennessee if you compare the volume of coverage
to Kansas or any of the top 25 men’s teams, not close. And again, the Olympics teams
fit into that idea, as well, is that they’ll crop up
when the timing is right, when it’s on TV, when
advertisers are interested. The last thing that I want to
spend more time talking about is the way that
coverage of women tends to center around bodies
and their outward womenness more than anything we
talk about with men. I had an aha moment about
this, also pretty early, a year or two into my time with ESPN. Brittany Griner bursting
onto the national stage. A college basketball
player, I believe she was a freshman,
starting 2009 at Baylor. If anybody is a fan
of basketball here or has seen Brittany Griner
play, she is awesome. She’s incredible. Game changing, once
in a lifetime talent. She’s dunking, blocking
shots, rebounding, really a revolutionary. And she gets called a
freak, then and now. And Randy Moss in the NFL,
great, great former Patriot. His nickname was
The Freak, nothing but positive connotations there. He’s so tall, he’s so fast. He’s got incredible
hands, right? Freak, beast, animal,
all these terms that we don’t even think
twice about ascribing to male athletes. These terms then get used
to describe Brittany Griner and it’s as negative
a connotation as you could possibly imagine. And that really was a
wake up moment for me that we have got to
change this conversation. How can we celebrate all kinds
of different body types for men and not do the same for
women when they’re all designed to do the
same thing, which is excel in the most competitive
landscape that there is? So anyway, I had a
great opportunity working on the copy
desk, the news desk, to see how this whole apparatus
fit together, to be everything to all sports fans everywhere. We worked with writers across
all the beats, the big three for men, all the college
sports, tennis, golf, boxing, motor sports, all of that. So on that surface,
it seemed like we’re well equipped to do a good job. We have an editorial beat, we
have coverage theoretically for every segment, every
team, every athlete. The reality, of course, is that
the resources that are devoted to that coverage are not equal. Surprise. There’s no newsflash here. You all are aware of that. A lot of times,
we’re scrambling, how can we get good
stories about women? We don’t have writers
devoted to that. We have 32 writers covering
the NFL, 32 plus, more than one per team. When I first started at
ESPN, it’s better now, but when I first started,
we had one writer devoted to women’s sports other than
women’s basketball, covering lacrosse, soccer, hockey. And he was also a member
of the college editorial team doing football and
basketball during the season. So you can see we had struggles. And I was not alone in the
newsroom feeling this disparity that we’re leaving a
segment really underserved. And so I think that environment
fostered ESPNW, which is a site dedicated to women. So that started in 2009,
got going a little bit more in 2010. It’s been plagued by controversy
and criticism, debate since those early days. To understand the climate,
25% of ESPN viewers are women. Also alluded to, about
8% of programming is dedicated to women’s sports. But when you’re talking
about Sports Center, the flagship show,
it’s 1.8%, 2.2%. It’s never been
more than 2% or 3% at most in the last 20 years. that gets devoted to women’s
sports from a study at USC. It’s actually decreased
over the last ten years, believe it or not. And into that void comes ESPNW. One of the authors
of that report at USC said he had mixed feelings about
it, quoting Michael Messner, quote “It’s going to give
women’s sports’ fans a place to go, but it might ultimately
ghettoize women’s sports and kind of take ESPN
off the hook in terms of actually covering them
on its main broadcast.” A fair criticism to be sure. I think on the flip side
there’s a lot of people, I would put myself in that
camp, that hope and still hope that ESPNW is
more than a defense against these allegations of
sexism and lack of programming. I think that there is a
two-fold approach in place to devote more time and
resources to covering women’s sports, and especially
women’s team sports. And also to give
voice to more women perspectives, not
just writers, but also to give a forum to pro athletes,
to fans, recreational athletes. And I think it was a chance to
try and find the great stories that we know are going to
resonate with an audience, kind of the similar, great
stories resonate with men and with women,
regardless of or about men or women. So I’m proud that there is at
least an attempt to do that. How is it working out? The debate continues,
we can talk about that. I know there’s a lot of talented
writers there today that are reporting and
doing great stories. A lot of the criticism
to me about ESPNW mirrors the criticism
of women’s sports. Shira has made this point
much better than I ever could, that women’s sports
are really defined often, all too often, about
what they’re not rather than what they are. They’re not as good as men,
it’s not as competitive, the fans are as passionate,
on and on and on. All of this throwaway
dismissive criticism. And here we are today. And what more stark
reminder do we have than what’s
happened on this campus in the last few weeks? But really, at least
in the last five years? And we know that it’s been
perpetuating longer than that. How sad is it that the press
coverage that the women’s Harvard soccer team is
getting in The New York Times is them having to
defend themselves against yet another juvenile,
sexist, chauvinistic attack? We owe these women more
than that, both in the media and as fans and as people. I have a
three-month-old daughter and I hope when she gets
on the internet we’ll have a better conversation. – I for one want to know when
the next Harvard women’s soccer game is going to
be playing at home. Tomorrow one o’clock. All right, all right, great. Mark that on your
calendars, everyone. It seems like it’s
already been marked. – Thanks Jessica and Dan,
you’ve teed this up nicely. I’m a writer, so I
often think in terms of vignettes, scene
setters, stories that are illustrative
of the bigger picture. So I’m going to take you
all back to the fall of 2013 and give you a
little idea of how it works from the inside
when you’re trying to cover female athletes. So in the fall of
2013, I learned that the US Women’s
National Hockey Team, which would be whittled
down to the US Women’s Olympic Hockey Team was going to
put its live-in training camp in Concord, Lexington. It was going to be
based in Massachusetts. And the interesting
thing about this was that because the
female players were on such strict stipends, they
were going, most of them, I believe it was 80%
of the team members, were going to be living with
local families in Lexington, in Bedford, in Concord,
in Cambridge, wherever they could find a room
billeting with them. And I thought, gosh, that
is a really great story. Because six months from now,
the attention of the world is going to be on these women. And you knew it was going to
come down to the US and Canada for the gold medal in Sochi. And here we had, with
the Boston Globe, an opportunity to go out and
see what was developing here with the team chemistry, and
also this really unique living situation. I mean, how many of you have
Olympians living next door? Great story. Oh, you do? OK, I see a hand going up. Perfect. So you have these
Olympians living next door, it’s a great story. And I go to the sports
editors and I say, hey, why don’t we do a really
great feature on these women? I have permission from their
host to go into the homes and really do something very
colorful, very in-depth. And the bonus is we get
to know these women, humanize them, get close
to them, build contacts. So when they are in
that gold medal game or leading up to that gold medal
game in Sochi, I’ll have an in. I’ll be able to pull them
aside in the mix zone where all the
international media is, and they’ll recognize me, and
it will improve our coverage down the line. And this is nothing against
my three male sports editors, but they passed on the story. And I said, well, this is a
story that has to get done. So I went to the magazine. And the reason, by the way,
that the sports editors passed was because they saw it as
more of a lifestyle story. They thought that this
was not about athletics. And I tried to make the case. I said, yes, but these are
the women who are going to contend for the gold medal. If it was a men’s team and
there was an opportunity, let’s say to– and
believe me, I’ve done this for the
sports section. Go and visit a Bruins
player in his apartment and get a sense of
him off the ice. Would be no
question, it would be go ahead, let’s
assign a photographer, let’s assign a videographer. Go, go, go, go, go. But that wasn’t the case. So I went to the magazine
and they loved it. And so we ended up doing
this story for the magazine. It was actually called
Olympians Next Door. And the beneficiary ended
up being The Globe’s sports section, because as predicted
when I got to Sochi, these women knew who I was and
were coming to me in the mix zone. So I got great coverage
of the women’s hockey team for our local audiences. So fast forward
about eight months. And the magazine
comes to me again. And they said, we got
really good feedback on that women’s sports story. Do you have another idea? And the policy was
always I had to pass it through the sports editors. They had right of first refusal. I said, well, one
thing that’s always been interesting
to me is, why is it that we have a lot of female
pro sports teams in Boston. We had at that time I believe
it was two women’s hockey teams. There was another one coming. There was a women’s hockey
team, there was a soccer team, there was a lacrosse team. We had tons and they were
getting zero attention. They were being ignored by fans. And I said, why don’t
we write an article about why do sports fans
ignore women’s pro sports? I thought this
was a great story. So I went to the sports
editors and I said, any interest in this? No, no, no, no, no. Magazine, of course, loved it,
turned it into a cover story. Now the interesting thing
is, and in the process of doing that story,
I got to explore a lot of the issues we’re going
to be talking about today. And one of the
interesting people that I had an
opportunity to talk to was MIT Dean, David Schmittlein. He’s a marketing expert. And I asked him. I said, what do women’s
sports need to do? What can they do to muster more
to generate more attention? And he says, well,
I think they need to stop selling themselves
as in competition with the men’s sports. You’re never going
to be perceived as as good as the men’s product. At least not now. So when you pit yourself
against the men’s product, you’re doomed to failure. He says you have to market the
women’s product as something different and better
because of that difference. I said, well, are
there any products in the history of advertising
that have been successful with that model where you market
them as different and better for that difference? And he just said to me,
tastes great, less filling. So light beer, he said, should
be a model for the way women market themselves. Tastes great, less filling,
different, but better in a different way. So going back and the
article that I did was actually a real
education for me in terms of what women face when
they’re trying to get coverage. How difficult it can
be, how difficult it can be to market
female athletes and the obstacles there. And I want to go back to
one of the key things, and Dan, don’t take
this the wrong way, but I think one of
the interesting things about the magazine is that
there are three, or at the time there were three
female editors there. And I think that people who are
in decision making positions when it comes to content
make a huge, huge difference. Because they look at
it differently already. You don’t have to
market to them that it’s different, but better. They see different, but better,
and want to write about it, want to market it that way. So looking for places
where there are women in the decision making system. Jess is a good
example of that, too. I think you really can pick up
on that because you’re female. You can say OK, here’s
an underserved market. And not only is it an
underserved market, but this is an
underserved market where we can make a big impact. And there’s value there,
there are customers there, there are readers there. And I think that sometimes
comes from a female perspective and a female perspective
not only as a writer, but a female
perspective at the top. And so from there though,
the interesting thing was as soon as this
article, this cover story, came out in the
magazine, it actually generated a heck of
a lot of comments and a heck of a lot of clicks. And the sports editors saw that. And from there, they asked me. They said, how would you feel
about writing a regular column on women’s sports? And so that’s what it took. You had to come around from
the outside to prove to them. I think there’s that
aspect, and it’s a constant when you’re
dealing with women in sports and marketing and coverage. You constantly have
to prove that women are worth the coverage, that
there’s an audience out there. And it’s not just one time, it’s
multiple times, over and over and over again. And there’s a constant
education that goes on of male editors, of
male readers, of female editors, of female readers about
what’s interesting, what an audience will
want, and what’s out there. Because we talk
about great stories. Dan was talking
about great stories. There are phenomenal stories
out there about female athletes that don’t get covered,
and it’s an endless point of frustration with me. And so I think I’ll
stop there, because I know we want to get onto the
panel discussion about it. But just a little
food for thought in terms of how it works
from the inside and the struggles that you
face when you’re pushing to get that
coverage and get people interested in women’s
sports and female athletes. – Can I just say two things. First, Dan, your point about the
resources are not equal for men and women’s sports coverage
was really interesting. And I think as I described what
we were doing from a marketing perspective at the Patriots, it
wasn’t all of a sudden let’s go market to women. It was a very measured approach
improving value over time. And so it’s a continuing
investment, even to the case that this past
year in the stadium we now offer a location
for women to breastfeed. So let’s serve that and continue
to help that particular fan. And then on the
second thing, Shira, you’ve been involved
since the beginning. I’m also one of the co-founders
and chairs of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. And there have been a lot of
requests from the students for there to be panels
on women’s sports. – And from one moderator. – Yes, and one moderator, Shira. But the concern is
the actual attendees at the conference
tends to be very male heavy who are potentially not
interested in women’s sports. And so one of the ways that
we addressed that a couple years ago is we had Sue
Bird who is probably the best point guard in
women’s basketball history. We put her on the
basketball panel. And actually we had an
issue with the moderator not asking enough questions. We should have made you
the moderator, Shira. But we had the issue
with the moderator not asking her enough
direct questions. But Shane Battier was
also on the panel. He was a great
college player, played in the NBA for a very long time. And he was the one who
was basically engaging and offering assists
if you will to Sue. What was really smart is
what Sue did last year when she came back. Because I remember talking
to her on the phone the year before. She’s like, what am I
going to talk about? And I said, you’re an athlete. You play sports, talk
about how you use data. And she did, but I don’t think
in her mind she really realized that that’s what she was doing. And then last year
with the conference, she had actually
written the piece with the Players’
Tribune that was all about how women’s
sports doesn’t have enough analytics around it. And there’s
obviously you kind of alluded to all of
the data that’s out there on men’s sports,
and that there just isn’t that information
on women’s sports. And I thought wow, what
an impact in a year basically now, Sue has
started this conversation from the perch that
she is at, it’s a conversation that
had been going on. But it got a tremendous amount
of notoriety and exposure because it was the
right audience, people who are in the data and
analytics covering sports. And then you have this person
on a panel talking about it. [INTERPOSING VOICES] – Jess and I talk a lot. So to piggyback off of
the resources thing, I’m the only one who’s
really actively writing about women’s sports
issues for The Globe. And just to give you an idea of
sometimes how that works out, which is marathon coverage. And I said, we really need to
have stories about women here. And we weren’t having them
in the pitch meetings. And as a result, I was
completely overloaded because I’d taken
on two stories. I had a slate of well, you need
to get these stories done X, Y, and Z. And then I
had pitched a story about a nurse who had
been tragically killed while training for
the Boston Marathon. And the breastfeeding
thing reminded me of it, pregnancy exemptions. Women don’t get
pregnancy exemptions if you become pregnant. After you register for
the Boston Marathon, you lose your place
in the marathon or you can’t reclaim
it if you can’t run because you’re
six, or seven, or eight months pregnant. But anyway, the point being
is with one person doing it, sometimes you just
can’t get to it all. And you look around
and you say, I want to be writing
about this, but I have to write about the Kenyan
champion, or this champion. And it’s unfortunate because
women in the business do want to write and
cover female athletes, but they don’t have the time. And they’re not given,
sometimes, the support from the people who are there. – I guess I would say that
you kind of alluded to, but even when I took over the
Patriots’ retail business, we had ten people in the
business, there were no women. So there was no
one who even would say what is the women’s product
that we should be buying. And I’m not going to
sit here and say I’m the most fashionable person. And I don’t necessarily know. But the stuff that
I like might not be what– there’s many
different types of women. There’s women who want to
wear big baggy stuff and then women who want to wear
more fashionable stuff. And so understanding enough
people were saying to me you need better
women stuff, I don’t know if they would have
said that to the men, but they said it to me. I was in a position to
actually action off of it. And we now actually,
when a product comes in, we pull I feel like I can speak
for one set or view of what women might like. But then we have the more
fashionable women come in and say, would you wear this? Would this work? And we have them actually
go through the catalog and help us pick
out those products. – And I remember
talking, also, I actually had lunch with Sue Bird
after the conference right after she spoke. The other thing that
happens is that there are such subtle ways of
discriminating against women in sports that sometimes
you don’t even recognize it until it’s too late. It’s just there is for lack of
a better way of describing it, it is still in many ways
a male dominated culture. And some people, some men
don’t see it the same way. And it’s a lot of education
and it takes time. – It does. And that extends to– – Says the man. – Well, the athletes,
it’s true in sports on both sides of the camera. You know how it
is in the newsroom and trying to pitch stories to
often all-male sports editors. Made me think of something
that happened just this summer. I don’t know if it was
under the radar or not, but ESPN has a sports reporters
show, which I always loved. It’s the people that know
sports the best having a conversation not unlike this. The first time that all three
panelists or four panelists were women happened two
months ago in late August 2016 was the first time
that it was all women. How many times was it all men? Too many to count. How many times was
Jackie Macmullan the only woman on the show? Too many to count. – Jamelle Hill, yeah. – Now I think it was Jamelle
Hill, Kate Fagan, who does great stories
for ESPNW and more. Who are the other two? – But also, look at that
timing of that though. Late August, the Olympics
had just finished. [INTERPOSING VOICES] – It’s what we would consider
the dead time in sports. But that being said,
women just have to seize those opportunities. You have to, even if ESPN is
calling you for the 5 AM call in, you take it because you
hope that that can lead. You have to build up your
repertoire in a way, I think, that men don’t have
to to gain entry, to gain credibility within
the reporting world, and within the athlete world. Even if you’re a Sue Bird,
you need to prove yourself. Just sad. – So we’ve been talking a lot
about the demand for coverage of women’s sports. And I’m wondering a little
bit about the push side from the athletes. What struggles do female
athletes and their coaches have in getting coverage? Do they have
different strategies than male athletes do? What do you see from
that side of things? – Wow. I think female
athletes feel they have to be incredibly
accessible, incredibly available, all of the time. I think male athletes can
say OK, this is my day to talk after practice. I mean, I can’t tell
you how many times I would go to Celtics practice
and Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen would
say, not talking today. You would never, ever, no
matter how big the star is, see that happen with
a female athlete. I went out to
Storrs, Connecticut, before the Olympics when the
US women’s basketball team was having a training camp there. And these are the biggest names
in basketball in the country. And it was packed
with reporters. And I kid you not, I think media
access lasted two hours, maybe. Two, two and a half hours. There were people still
doing stand ups when I left at around the two hour mark. Every player was available,
whatever you needed. If you needed a 20 minute
interview, with X, Y or Z player, you got it. If you needed three 20 minute. I mean, there was no limits. And by the way,
this was the first of three days of
this training camp where they would do
exactly the same thing. So I think from an
athlete standpoint, one of the things
that happens is there’s a feeling that you have
to be constantly available. I think there’s
also the feeling, and I know female reporters
feel it, you can’t say no. Even if it’s not the best,
most ideal situation for you, you can’t say no because you
never know where it will lead. And I think about this when I
think of some of the athletes I know who I would
not have thought were candidates for
ESPN’s The Body Issue, but posed for The
Body Issue anyway. Because I think they felt
that this was, perhaps, going to put them in contact
with some ESPN magazine editors, help them and
their agent make connections with people in the media
that could be valuable down the line. I don’t think they
necessarily wanted to pose for The Body Issue,
but they did it as a way in the door, which
is unfortunate. – Did that work for them? – It did work for one of them. She got more Twitter followers. She got more attention. But she also is
somebody who had been– the other thing is social media
is a big part of this, too. Female sports and
athletes, teams, athletes rely incredibly on social
media, because they don’t have the TV deals. And if they do
have the TV deals, it’s not a whole slate of games. It’s here and there. So you have the sports media. Again, it goes back to the
all accessible aspect of this. So yes, it worked
for this one athlete, but this was at the end of
two or three years of her just being constantly on social
media, doing different videos, trying to put herself out there. Because she needed money. Because she needed
endorsement deals. She was trying to,
as a hockey player, she was trying to make
a living without having to take a second job that would
have cut into her training time. Because she was caught
in this catch 22 that so many female
athletes are caught in, which is you either take
a second job as a coach, a private coach, assistant
college coach to help make ends meet. But that cuts into
your training time incredibly so you can’t be
the player you want to be. Or you try to
figure out some way to promote yourself, get some
endorsement deals so you can devote yourself full
time to your sport, so you can be the
player you want to be. It’s this constant catch 22
that female athletes face. – One thing that I thought
was really interesting that Dan said was about how
eight of the top ten highest paid women are tennis players. And I think that’s a huge
credit to Billie Jean King and the stance that she
took many years ago to have equal pay to the men’s program. And then I think the
US Women’s Soccer Team in the 90s with Mia Hamm,
they took a similar stand that everyone should
be paid the same. And I think what
happened this past year, and you guys could
speak to it better than I can, after the
women won the World Cup and trying to take
advantage of that to make sure that they were
getting paid equally to men. And the response
to it was actually pretty surprising to
me in a negative way. But I think that– Shira and I were talking
a little bit about this before the panel how now we
were the same year and friends in college. But how now looking back,
we see we thought when we were in college it was equal. We had all the same
equality as athletes. And we didn’t, right? And even as we’ve been
going through our careers, we thought it was
the same equality. But it’s not. And I think that the young
women today in their 20s think that it’s
equal, but it’s not. And I think for
the female athletes today to take those stands like
Billie Jean King or the women’s soccer team in the 90s
or again this past year, it feels like there needs to
be a broader awareness by all the female athletes
of the power of them as a group versus a one, whether
they’re in an individual sport or in a team sport. I don’t know if that ultimately
leads to more TV coverage, but I think it certainly
addresses what you just brought up about the
training and the things that were needed in order to continue
to compete at that elite level. – Great points. Yeah, the Billie Jean King
in the 70s and Title IX really resonates, too. And how that fight,
there wasn’t a lot of progress from 1920
to 1970 probably. I think 1970, you would
know better than me– – 1975, which was the year I
was born was when Title IX– – And not too much before
that, women’s basketball was not a full court
game, which is just crazy to think about now. – Just think about this. 1980 until 1984 you didn’t have
women running distance races in the Olympics. It was a fight for that because
they thought their ovaries were going to fall out. Not even that, in 2014 in
Sochi was the first time they had women’s ski jumping. And it was just amazing to
hear about these women who had been ski jumping
for 10, sometimes 12 years, saying it’s
about gosh darn time that we’re invited to the party. And there were still some
male European coaches who were saying this isn’t
physically safe for a woman to do. And citing some
of the old 1940s, 50s literature about
women’s ovaries falling out when they
were ski jumping. You would read these
comments come across on the quote sheets in
Sochi and you’d be like, what decade are we living in? – But I think it’s an
interesting point, because I can speak for myself,
just having grown up playing team sports, played on
great teams here at Harvard, and seeing what all of my
classmates and teammates and the alumni before me. Some of them are
here in the room. Some folks after me who
are also here in the room. Like what people now
believe that they can do and are afforded to do. And they’ve been
in this environment where they understand team,
which is actually really, really important in
a business setting. Sure, even the
approach that you’ve taken to looping in
the sports editors to make sure that you have
buy in from them before you go to the magazine. That’s really fascinating and
politically astute, obviously. But it’s something that as an
athlete you learn those things and you pick up those things. I’m not saying you
wouldn’t learn it if you were devoting
yourself to anything else very seriously and passionately,
but I think just as an athlete, you start to learn
to think like that. And I think collectively,
we’re starting to see people who were
impacted by Title IX getting to more senior levels in sports
business or sports journalism or sports media or
whatever it might be. And the hope is that some
of these things that we’re talking about, even like Katie
Ledecky, the longest race that she was able to
swim wasn’t as long as the longest men’s
race, when are there going to be women in
those positions who can enact that
change and understand that there is no real reason
why that race isn’t happening? – That brings up a question
I had for you guys, which is really about the
role of the Olympics in changing public perception
about women’s athletics. We’ve talked a little bit
about the spike in interest and then the fade off. How do you see it in a
longer term perspective? – How do you see a longer term? I’ll take this first,
only because I’m somewhat recently returned from Rio. It’s tough, because I
think even at the Olympics you have a disparity there
in terms of the coverage that men and women get. And what’s always
interesting to me is it’s like the men will have
been followed much longer. You’ll have more
of a story to them, you’ll know more about them
going into the competition. And then the women
are not portrayed as overnight successes,
but they come across as overnight successes
because there’s not that background,
that same lead-up with the female athletes. Even though I will be in my
editor’s office eight months earlier talking about we
should have this athlete, we should have that athlete. They looked at me cross-eyed
when I said to them. Listen, this is not
just at The Globe or with male sports editors. Sometimes it’s
just our awareness of female athletes in general. But they looked at
me cross-eyed when I said you know
what, we have got to do a feature on this
rower named Gevvie Stone. I said, trust me, we need to go. She’s training in
Cambridge, it will be great. We should bring a video. And again, with the
access part of it, I said I know will
have unfettered access. So we got to get down
there and do this story. And they’re like OK,
OK, but I don’t know if they were so enthusiastic. And they ran it in one of
the dead weeks leading up to the Olympics so I don’t know
if people even saw the story. And it turns out she
wins a silver medal, and it’s the first silver
medal in that event I think in something
like 12 years. And not only that. The kicker was I talked
to her after the race. And she was an outside
medal contender, but not a true favorite. I said, to what do
you credit your win? And she says, the Charles River. And I thought oh, this
is a dream come true. This is the perfect Boston story
coming out of the Rio Olympics. But you had to press to get
that coverage in advance. I mean, they’re great. It just kills me,
because I feel like there are so many better women’s
stories because there are so many more
undiscovered stories out there because women
don’t get that lead up that the men do oftentimes. Or they’re not known
quantities before the Olympics. So I feel like there were too
many stories for me to even do. – Well, and I guess
I’ll just say I think that’s where we can
tie things back to data. And that’s the great equalizer. I just thought I would. [INTERPOSING VOICES] – You can start to see
what people are reading, and you see the impact. And even as I’m trying to help
justify business decisions, I’m using data. And this was stuff that
really wasn’t there 10 or 15 years ago. But even print, you couldn’t
see the impact of an article. Now you can see what
people are reading. You can see the comments that
people are making on them. – Yeah, so I would say
though the one caveat to that and something that frustrates
me is data can also be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy
when you’re in journalism. For example, we know when
people will get on a website and click on a story. We know the high traffic times. Well, if you’re loading up
a story on a female athlete outside of those
high traffic times, those numbers are
going to be lower. So then it becomes this
self-fulfilling prophecy where you’re not getting the clicks. So what can I do about that? – I’ll go to ESPN real quick,
because there’s a WNBA Game 5 and I wish I watched
more women’s basketball. But I was like oh,
this is a great game. And I go to ESPN thinking
it’s going to be on ESPN. It was on ESPN2 and I was
like, are you kidding me? And it was an amazing game. I mean, it was an amazing game. So I don’t have an answer
for– they didn’t put it on the [INTERPOSING VOICES] – It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating when you see a
story loaded up on any website and again, this is nationally. When you see and I scan papers
across the country and see what they’re writing about. When you see, at 9 o’clock
on a Saturday night, you see a great feature
about some female boxer or some female wrestler loaded
up onto the Los Angeles Times website. And you’re like, huh? – I think I’ve figured it out. You need to become the sports
editor of The Boston Globe. – Thank you. [INTERPOSING VOICES] – I see Becky is putting
out the microphone. I’m sure you guys have
lots of questions. – My PR agent. – Yeah. Come on up to the mic and
if you’ll say your name and give us your question,
that would be awesome. – Again, I just want to say
something about The Globe. The important thing, though,
is places like The Globe and places like
ESPNW are trying. At least they are putting
a women’s sports column out there. They are putting
ESPNW out there. Whether it’s
ghettoizing it or not, they’re getting people
to write that content and playing with it. It’s a start, it’s a start. – It’s a two part battle. We have to do the
stories and then we can fight for front page
placement for the popular 9:00 AM to noon Monday
traffic window. – So The Globe and
ESPNW are a little bit, they’re not ahead of the
curve, but at least they’re putting stuff out
there, trying to start something of a conversation. There are a lot of kinks
to be ironed out, though. – And it’s not a 24
hour news cycle anymore. I mean, there’s four
news cycles a day, right? – 4? About 12. – Yeah, 12, right? Even more. The big traffic stories are
here and gone in a heartbeat. These aren’t journalistic
works of lasting worth. These are splashy headlines
with big names and scandal. – And sometimes that works
against coverage, as well. – It’s an echo chamber,
too, and you’re like, oh my god, we’ve
got so many clicks. We’ve got to keep doing this. Well, yeah, OK. You got a click, but did you
really make a lasting impact? Is this resonating
with an audience? No, it has broad appeal. It’s like driving
past a train wreck. And so not to denigrate
all the stories that we do, but the best
stories are the ones that are going to be read today. They’re going to be read
Saturday night at 9 o’clock. You can discover
it two months later because somebody
shared it on Facebook. Those are the kinds of
stories that Shira’s doing, that were the most
important ones that we did at ESPN Boston. We need more clicks always
to be able to devote more resources to finding them. And really I am convinced,
maybe naive and too optimistic, I’m convinced that
quality storytelling is going to win out. Because we do have social media. Because people
can go more direct and because there are other
ways to get audience and get buy in from consumers that is
outside any editorial decision making placement process. That’s my hope. I hope it works out that way. We’ve got to fight the
battle every day pretty much. – So I am Paula Lawson
Barksdale in class of ’87. And I want to say that
first of all, this has been fantastic already. I am not an athlete, but
I’m a big sports fan. I’m the one who lives near Kerri
Walsh and loves the Patriots and was hooting back there. So I just want to say
how grateful I am, but also just for perspective,
even though clearly we have so far to go, as
somebody who is pre-Title IX, there’s so much good stuff. I love that my dad
watching the Olympics is following the women’s
stories as much as the men’s and that sort of thing. And there’s a lot
of great stuff. I work with high school
students preparing them to go to college. And I work with a lot
of recruited athletes. And my girls have at least as
many opportunities as the boys, and that is phenomenal
to me, it’s great. So I remain optimistic, even
though I know we’re only this far along on the path. But my question,
actually, and I hope it’s not too I don’t know what. But I was thinking about
this notion of sex appeal and how that in
many ways it does actually work for men, as
well, not to the same degree. I remember people commenting on
Larry Bird being unattractive and me thinking, that’s not
really his frickin’ job. Are you watching him play? And I was actually
wondering, Jessica, what you all are seeing. And not just
anecdotally, but are you looking at any
analytics saying, what does it do for our team
that Tom Brady is gorgeous, is married to a
supermodel, and he has that every guy
wants to be him, everyone wants to be with him. And what does that
do to the number of women who are wearing
number 12 jerseys in terms of merchandising and
viewership and ticket sales? Is that something
that you track at all? – We’re not specifically
tracking his sex appeal, which I think is the question. No, he’s arguably the best
quarterback in NFL history. And his jersey sales
are really impressive, both by the men and
women and youth. No, we’re not
looking at– I mean, it’s an interesting question. But I think that he
is a very good person. I think people in
the media may not think he’s such a good person. – I have a free Tom Brady
shirt, so I’m all in. [INTERPOSING VOICES] – We’re on the same page. But I think, actually, the
Giselle thing has as much of a factor as anything
because she is so much bigger of a presence globally. We were going to make an entry
into China in 2007, 2008. I was over there three
times in six months. No one had any idea who
Tom Brady was, right? Because they don’t
really play football. The NFL has been making
a big push there, but we said Giselle’s– I’m not
sure if they were married then, but husband or boyfriend. Oh, yeah, we know Giselle. So I think here where
football is obviously so huge in the United
States, it’s very critical. But no, we’re not
measuring his sex appeal. We are very much taking
advantage of his actual skills. One other thing I did want to
say real quick that I think is interesting as we’re
going through generational. So I have two boys, they’re
three and five months. But I bring them to a lot of
Harvard women’s basketball games. Last March, during
March Madness, we turned on the
Men’s Final Four. And he looks up and he says
oh, Harvard basketball, Harvard women’s basketball. And I go, not exactly. But in his mind,
watching women’s sports, and again, the influence
of me is normal. And he likes watching,
I guess he does. But he likes
watching or he thinks basketball is women playing. So I think that
there will continue– You said we’re on the road. I think it’s going to just
continue with each generation. – Oh, totally. Again, just being
pre-Title IX what I’ve experienced
versus of course, my kids have grown
up only thinking of women as being as athletic as
men and equal in so many ways. They’re not ever going
to reach the level where they’re going to realize
that it’s not post-collegiate. But yeah, I’m
totally optimistic. Thank you. And I hope I didn’t sound too
silly with the sex appeal, but I really was thinking. [INTERPOSING VOICES] – As a former marketer myself,
and as a displaced Patriots fan, I see how many women
are watching that game all over the country. And I yeah, they stunk
when I was growing up and now they’re really good. But I really do
wonder how much people are watching Tom Terrific. Just a thought, thanks. – Well, he hasn’t
confirmed that. I actually had to hide
my free Tom Brady shirt. I almost burned it
when he said that. But I’m just
separating that out. – Just a quick comment. I’m Lynn Osborn. I’m a rower. I graduated from
Princeton in 1979. You are not pre-Title IX. Title IX was passed
in 1972, I believe. And it was 1977 when
the ladies at Yale made us realize at Princeton
that we didn’t have a locker room. But it didn’t occur to
us until they did that. I have a question, though. It seems that the Symphony
Orchestra business realized after decades
that women just weren’t able to play. That, of course, women
can’t play like men. When they created a curtain
that the players played behind when they did their
auditions and now the symphonies are 50/50. I’m just wondering that your
data may be the way for us to move in that direction. – Yeah, I mean
obviously I’ve been a big believer in analytics. Understanding athletes,
understanding fans, customers, marketers. I do think it’s
going to continue to help us understand where
our unconscious biases are. And I think being aware of
those unconscious biases in that example from this is
awesome and a great situation. I do think there actually are
physical differences, though, between male and
female athletes. But there are cases where they
can be as technology continues to advance and improve,
I’ll be interested to see how it impacts and changes. – I would love to see
an experiment where you put together like
a series of pitches, and they’re gender
neutral pitches. You don’t identify whether it’s
a male or a female athlete, and you just pitch
it to the editor and you see which ones
they come away with. – That is really cool. – And I think it would
probably be 50/50. That’s what I’m guessing. Irrespective of
gender, I think you go for the better story
and maybe even 60/40. I think women’s stories
tend to be more interesting. – Hi, I’m Jen Ballin. I’m a second year
MBA at MIT Sloan, also working on the Sports
Analytics Conference, and very interested in this
topic as a female athlete. Also interested in
the data discussion. So my question if
for you, Shira. You talked about
different, but better. So have you been able to
analyze through metrics on the sports column
what are these different, but better topics? And to that extent,
who’s cooking? – Oh gosh, no. We have not done it. We should probably do
some serious analytics on the various– maybe that’s
a good– are you interested? We have not. And part of the issue is
it’s only two years old and would like to do more
of them more regularly. There’s probably a
grouping now of about 30, 35 to look at, if that. But I think it would
be interesting to see. I do know that the three
most popular columns have been one where I
talked about, I don’t know if you’re familiar
with the woman Sara Atar. She’s a runner who competed. She’s essentially a US citizen,
but she shares citizenship with Saudi Arabia. So she competed for Saudi Arabia
in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. And that got a huge response. The other one was a
case of discrimination against a female
hockey coach who didn’t have her contract
renewed after being the most successful college
hockey coach in Division I Women’s Hockey. She also happened to be the
most highest paid women’s coach in college hockey. And then the third one
that was the most popular was, I don’t know
if you recall, but I don’t think his daughter’s
still here, Sara. But Dan Shaughnessy wrote
about how it was not worth watching the UCONN women’s
basketball team play because you knew they
were going to win and it was going to be
like a 50 point blowout. And why, basically, he
didn’t quite say this, but it wasn’t competition. And they defeated the purpose
of having an NCAA tournament if you knew they
were going to win. And so very popular
column in response to him. And I actually called him during
the national championship game and said, are you
watching, and just wrote about talking
with him during the national championship game. And basically, with the point
I don’t want to say attack Dan, but said, that’s
an invalid point. And we have to
get past the point where women aren’t
grateful for whatever they receive in terms of coverage. And a lot of women
responded to that notion of not being grateful,
but believing you deserve whatever attention you get. So I got a ton of letters. – That was a great column. Didn’t you talk about
the women’s national team in that column? – Yes, I did talk about
the Women’s National Team in that column. See? Somebody read it. – Thank you. And thank you everyone
for being here. – Hello, Linda Robinson Class of
’72 and lifelong Red Sox season ticket holder. I have a question. And I’m obviously
100% with you guys. But this is a
provocative question. – Love it. – There’s a whole question
between sports as competitions, sports is personal fulfillment,
which is really a team building growth thing we talk about
sports for schoolchildren and to some extent in college,
and sports as entertainment. I personally, perhaps I’m wrong,
believe that it’s not just Billie Jean King’s efforts
and the continuing efforts of other tennis players. But the fact that
there is no question that the women’s tennis
game brings in the dollars and brings in the attendance. And it’s often in years when
the men’s game has been lopsided that people came to
see the women more than they came to see the men. So it was very easy,
in that context, to say women deserve
the same money, because they’re bringing in– – Or more. – Or more, perhaps even. But – Same with women’s soccer, too. I think it’s the more
entertaining game in the US. The women’s team is
far more entertaining than the men’s team. – Certainly in the US. I agree with you there. But what do you say, and maybe
Dan could speak to this some because I’m sure he hears
this from his work at ESPN, we’re in the
entertainment business and people aren’t
paying to see these– How do you see your role to
increase the entertainment value, if I will say? – That’s a great question. It’s a struggle. ESPN, we are trying to maintain
that journalistic integrity of editorial operates in a silo. And business publishing
is in another silo. The reality is
that’s impossible. It’s a false dichotomy
because the leagues that we cover we’re
paying billions of dollars a year to have the
rights to their product, to put them on their airwaves,
to sell advertisements to make up for those huge rights fees. Maybe I’m not speaking
towards entertainment. At the end of the day,
it is entertainment. It’s infotainment, a
lot of what ESPN does. I do think that there are a lot
of great journalists that come from an old school print
tradition that are both in the .com and the
print and digital house, as well as on the TV side. So I do think journalistic
integrity has risen. But it’s unavoidable. There’s no solution,
it’s impossible. When you’re in bed
together, I mean there’s any number of
stories that we can point to over the last ten years
where news coverage has been slow to develop because of a
certain player’s indiscretion and what they mean to the brand. I can think about
one in particular with Ben Rothlisberger. – Rapes in Georgia, right? – And also in Tahoe in
the golf tournament, there was some slow reporting
there for an outfit. We’re all in a
competitive business, everybody wants to be
first to break news. The reality is most of us
are all at the same access and we’re writing the same
stories for men’s teams. And so when it comes
to these situations where some of the biggest,
most valuable properties and entities are in
possibly compromising, less than favorable outright
illegal circumstances, there have been times when
the coverage has been slow. Now I can take some
solace in the fact that you can’t avoid it forever. And there are people
in the room that are saying, why are we waiting? Why are we waiting? Why are we waiting? This is newsworthy
right now today. And every second
that we wait, we’re losing credibility
with our fans. And we’re losing that
mission to maintain journalistic integrity. So there’s always that tension. Ideally, you’re aware of it,
but editorially, those decisions aren’t getting delayed
on the editorial side. It’s not happening on that side. It’s different than, I
don’t know a quote unquote, “independent newspaper”. ESPN is a funny
situation that it’s one of the biggest rights
holders to all these entities. But it is still a
journalistic outfit. It’s different than the NFL
network covering the NFL. It’s different than
the MLB network. So I would say that those
entities that are really keeping their own
product and controlling coverage and access
in-house, they’re all about entertainment. And you’re not going to see
a lot of the negative stuff at all there. And that, to me,
that’s their role. I can’t argue with
their business model. That’s why it’s important
that the journalists that have a stake in this
continue to do their jobs and aren’t handcuffed. I’m not sure I touched on
entertainment at all there. I’m sorry. – Yeah, I started
out by saying that we created different content
for women, that people consume different. And we created different
content for women, but found that it
wasn’t just women who wanted that content, right? It was the general fan. I will say I would
go to ESPN pre-ESPNW to read the women’s
basketball coverage. And it was great. It was how I like to read
about women’s basketball. ESPNW then it got
flipped and they stopped covering women’s
basketball that way. And it was no longer
on the main site and they were covering
it differently. I think in the last year or two
it’s changed, which is good, because as a consumer
of sports, I didn’t like how it was being covered. And it had been, as you
kind of said, something that wasn’t being covered by ESPN. So I think that
we’re in a generation of highly targeted
different ways of personalizing information. And I think the way
that things seem to be consumed from an
entertainment perspective is it isn’t one size fits all. And I think that’s what
we’re talking about, that there might need
to be multiple ways. There are multiple ways that
men’s sports are consumed. And we’re maybe not there
yet with women’s sports for a whole host of
different reasons. And I would say I might
be an oddity in terms of how I wanted to consume
women’s sports the way that traditionally
ESPN had covered it. And I wasn’t really interested
in how they were covering it for four or five years. But I think that’s
something that you guys will have to speak to and evolve
and change over time. We have seen great success
at the Kraft Sports Group with what we have been
doing to try and cater, we thought was a
women’s audience, but it actually turns out it
was much bigger than that. – Jessica, I think you
nailed– sorry, go ahead. – Because there
are plenty of women who know the difference between
the theme and a skinny post. – Exactly. I’m not one of them. – I’ve got my eye
on the shot clock and I think it
looks like we have time for one more question. – Hi, I’m Danielle. I’m actually a junior at
LaSalle College over in Newton. I’m studying Journalism
and Public Relations. And as a student,
I obviously have watched the Olympics
over the summer while I had plenty of time. And I watched everything
to do with gymnastics because it’s so good. And I notice how media
coverage with them was always about how
they were as athletes. Like Simone Biles, they talked
about her being an athlete, not sex appeal or anything
like that, which I thought was really good. But I had no idea who any of the
athletes on the male gymnastics team were. So I wanted to know
what your thoughts are on the flopped, the
flip flopped, way of media coverage
for some sports as opposed to other sports. With also women’s volleyball. I never really see anything
about men’s volleyball on the Olympics. – Well, it’s
interesting that you talk about how they were always
talked about as athletes. But I think underneath, even
if it wasn’t stated, part of it was the appeal of seeing these
incredibly athletic women in leotards. And I know there was
actually a male gymnast who said during the Olympics when
asked, what can the men’s gymnasts do, here, to get more
attention, to take attention? He goes, we can compete
with our shirts off. And he actually did
take his shirt off for the exhibition portion. They held an exhibition. So I think as much as it
seems like on the surface there was coverage
that was devoted to these young
women as athletes, underneath that
was a layer of look at these women in leotards. I think the same thing exists
with volleyball, particularly with beach volleyball. Because I was over at
Copacabana and watching some of the men’s contests and
some of the women’s contests. And now listen, Rio’s a
beach volleyball loving city. But the crowds were
just more into it. It was a more electric
atmosphere, at least for the matches that I went to,
when the women were playing. And I’m guessing part of that
is because of the bikini. So they may talk about
them as athletes, but I think underlying some of
the popularity of those sports is the sex appeal, whether
they state it on NBC or not. It’s definitely,
definitely there. – Well, thank you. This is a great conversation. And I want to
thank the panelists and you, as an audience. I think it really was
a two way conversation. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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