Texas A&M made a lot of people angry when slideshow pictures were released from their “Chalk Talk for Women” event.
The football terms used in the slideshow were correct in theory, but as with many things in life, context and tone are key. And this particular presentation in front of 700 women was filled with sexist remarks and wreaked of sexual innuendos only a 3rd grader would find funny.
While it’s a bad look for Texas A&M, they aren’t the only organization holding events like this. A simple Google search results in numerous schools from all across the country:
…You get the point.
Football 101 classes for women aren’t new. In fact, you can find some of these programs highlighted by Megan Ryan of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that have a similar approach as Texas A&M. Even players like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelmen of the Patriots have their own “teach women football” events— which has a waiting list.
Like it or loathe it, these programs exist in the year 2016 because there’s demand for them. But while there are organizations who need a lot of help in their marketing approach towards women. Other teams, even in the state of Texas, are showing how it can be done right:
Why do women need specialized marketing?
Football—whether college or pro—are billion dollar industries. As such, entire marketing departments are tasked with overseeing the approach to grab the attention of a variety of demographics. The NFL’s CMO Dawn Hudson is the highest ranking female executive within the NFL and it’s her job to oversee campaigns targeted towards casual fans, die hard fans, males, females, children, teens, adults, seniors etc…
The NFL likely wouldn’t have a high intensity workout event for senior fans because it doesn’t interest the variety of that particular demographic. It’s not ageist. It’s just not where the NFL is going to put a huge focus because the return on value isn’t there.
In a similar case, NFL Fan Style offered a traveling game day lounge that included fanicures and mimosas. Would men partake in this? Probably not. Would some diehard female fans check it out? Sure. But if you don’t like what’s being offered, you’re probably not the target market.
Male or female—the typical football fan doesn’t need specialized marketing. But when you’re targeting someone who’s not a typical fan and choose to take a specialized route, there is a fine line when incorporating football and feminine culture.
Take me for example; I’m about as big of a Jaguars fan you’ll meet. I haven’t missed a home game in nearly a decade, can tell you the history of the franchise, recent draft picks and story lines going into the season.
*takes off team inspired earrings*
Don’t step to me and insinuate you’re a better fan simply because I enjoy getting manicures and sipping tf out of champagne on game day.
We all fan differently and when teams offer up various football events, it means we have a growing and diverse football culture. If you don’t like the event being offered, don’t go.
However, with that said…
How do we fix the lazy “101 class” approach?
Well, it’s already happening. Last year the Jaguars held a women-only event dubbed “Meet Me at the 50” hosted by ESPN’s Suzy Kolber. They served refreshments, gave a tour of the locker room, allowed fans to try out player gear and participate in a live Q&A with stars from the team before Kolber talked about working in sports. This event was perfectly done because it represented various demographics of the female fan.
Every fan is different and they need to be marketed to as such. If you’re a diehard football fan and you hear about a 101 class, it’s not automatically sexist. There are countless women and men who want to learn about the game in a setting that’s comfortable to them. And being surrounded by those who know significantly more and aren’t afraid to tell you can be extremely intimidating to newer football fans—which is why these educational classes have been created in the first place.
But if you find yourself on the “we should totally teach them women how to understand football” planning committee, stop everything you’re doing and look around the room.
If you don’t have a committee that consists of at least 50 percent women, scrap whatever idea you had and start over because you can’t market to a demographic you don’t understand. And no amount of drink tickets will help your cause if you offer an educational event only to have pink team merchandise shoved down your throat the entire time.
But let’s not get crazy…
All of the women-only football related events I’ve been to are fun—a lot of fun. Not solely because of the activities during the event but because you’re in a room surrounded by like-minded women.
Hell, I’ve been to plenty of “Football 101 for Women” in my time and I’ll continue to go because I thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere.
Do I think men should be invited to these events too? Sure. But when you invite men, you change the dynamic of the setting. And don’t tell me it doesn’t because we all have that one friend who invited a guy to “Girl’s Night Out” and for better or worse—it changes the entire mood.
There’s a middle ground in all of this football teams can take on that appeals to both genders of various ages and knowledge. We don’t want to see more classes like Texas A&M but we also shouldn’t call all 101 events across the country sexist.
Because last time I checked, there are no men-only fan events when it comes to football. Let’s find a way we can find a way to embrace the surrounding and growing culture of the game even if it’s something we typically wouldn’t partake in.