FC Barcelona recently held a conference entitled “Barça: Female and Diverse” to coincide with the International Women’s Day, organized at the Camp Nou facilities. The focus of the conference was to discuss and reflect on the situation of women in sport as well as the discriminations they suffer – particularly on how to face the new challenges of making female athletes more visible.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu was at the session, which opened with the participation of FC Barcelona women’s team players Sandra Paños and Alexia Putellasi. Also present was Guillermo Amor, Director of Institutional Relations and head of the Club’s professional football training programmes. The session continued with a panel discussion featuring amateur players from different divisions within Barça. Maria Vallès, Director of the Barça Foundation, rounded out the first section with a presentation entitled “Female Athletes”. The second part of the session looked into the role of brands in human rights activism and feminism, as well as their role in raising awareness on gender equality in sport.
The majority of women admit to the difficulty of balancing sport with work or study, the lack of economic assistance, as well as the challenges they face as mothers. These factors often lead female athletes to withdraw from the world of sport.
Women are often very aware of the need to have another career in parallel with their athletic career for their future. They are also conscious that their priority must be their studies, as they will not be able to make a living from sport, due to the fact that they are women. Should they wish to become mothers, this is a key factor, as the body changes with pregnancy. Afterward, there is recovery, the risk of injury and the reality of reconciling sports with children and with work, all of which make it much more difficult for women to continue in sport. The act of stopping an athletic career to have a child relegates training to a lower priority and can easily end a relationship with sponsors.
The Barça Foundation presented “Female Athletes: Discriminations, Barriers, and Choices”, a qualitative study completed by the Foundation itself, on the discrimination that women suffer in the practice of team sports.
The study concludes that there are three factors that impact women in sport:
- Choice – a choice that is not completely free, as one might think. Rather, it is affected by the choices of their families, socioeconomic status and by certain sports being more associated with a specific gender (i.e. the difficulty for many women to choose traditionally male sports), etc.
- Discrimination derived from gender stereotypes and prejudice, such as physical qualities (sports that are associated with specific body types), the symbolic value of the body (athletes’ bodies that society may stigmatise as “masculine”), etc.
- Barriers due to structural factors, such as difficulty in finding sources of funding, scarce media coverage, pay gaps, differences in sports facilities for men and women, etc. All of these factors make it more difficult for women to play sports and have the possibility of reconciling their personal, athletic, and work lives, leading to the abandonment of their sporting activity.
Studies demonstrate that up to 80% of purchasing decisions are made by women. Women are also more involved on social networks and a bigger influence on recommending brands and products on these networks. Therefore, women matter and they matter a lot throughout the purchasing process. For this reason, brands should include them and listen to them.
Seventy percent of consumers prioritise brands that address and take on real issues, particularly in human rights, climate change, and feminism. “Brave brands” are those that defend and fight for our values, and which take a stance regarding social and/or environmental challenges. Consumers are demanding more from brands, wanting them to have a positive social impact without losing their authenticity and personality. Other studies also conclude that only 20% of current brands will survive the next few years. And this 20% will be the “brave brands”.
In terms of athletic sponsorship, this field has been strengthened by the presence of these “brave brands” such as Stanley, the first-ever sponsor of FC Barcelona’s women’s football shirt. The brand reinforces its values by backing women’s sports and innovating as an advertiser within its sphere. It also wants to differentiate itself from its competitors reinforcing these values and open up to new opportunities with a positive impact in the market.
In the world of sport, other brands have already started to back this strategy – such as Nike or Gillette, with their new socially engaged campaigns focusing on topics such as racism, the redefinition of masculinity, or the empowerment of women in sport. These brands and campaigns raise awareness of the female cause and talent.
In this sense, FC Barcelona, continues its effort to promote social innovation through sport, committing itself against misogynistic comments and behaviour in football as an inclusive sport. FC Barcelona unequivocally supports gender equality in sport: “Football is for footballers”.