With the Women’s World Cup now well underway, the spotlight has shifted towards ensuring that sports associations and leagues are doing everything they can to promote gender equality.
We caught up with Head of Women’s Sport at GiveMeSport, Benny Bonsu, to discuss how the achievements of female athletes can be magnified, the ways in which world cup momentum can be sustained and ways of engaging more with a female fan-base.
Firstly, it’d be great to hear more about what attracted you to the role at GiveMeSport?
What attracted me to the role was that it was something new. When I spoke with Rick Waterlow, GiveMeSport’s CEO, I felt like he really believed in the company and had a passion for it. I’ve been in sports for over 15 years and I always believed in broadcasters/publishers that don’t just speak about something, but they believe in making a change.
I remember going in for my interview and saying that I want to be part of something that changes the landscape and the coverage of sports for women because for so many years it has felt that women almost have to be apologetic for being on screen or having space in a newspaper.
GiveMeSport wants to change the narrative and I am delighted to be the one leading that change. I get to bring my own vision and my own experience to help shape the narrative of what is going on regarding women’s sports.
What elements of your history within the sport can help you in this role at GiveMeSport?
I’ve been in this industry for 15 years now and have been working for some of the biggest broadcasters in the world; in the UK, the U.S. and across Africa. My experience over that time makes me the perfect fit for this role and I think what I bring to the table is that I’m not just a journalist, broadcaster, but I’ve also worked on the business side.
For the London 2012 Olympics I worked as the sports operation and policies manager for LOCOG before transferring to become one of the producers for the Basketball Olympics and Paralympics and after that moved to Ghana to be the head of production of MTG globally – managing and producing local content but also working with the global markets to acquire content for the MTG ViaSat brand, while working with agencies and brands to amplify their assets on the continent.
I know and understand the business of broadcasting and publishing. I also know the experience that women working in this space go through and what this movement means to them, probably more so because I am a diverse leader. To have somebody with that kind of experience and knowledge, but also somebody who is honest and raw regarding what is going on when comes to women in sports.
How important is it that Women’s football builds on the momentum that will be generated at the current World Cup?
Continuing that momentum is really important. Ahead of the World Cup, the majority of the media houses and all the broadcasters were talking about “the summer of sports”. For us, at GiveMeSport Women it’s important that we don’t just talk about the “summer of sports” but beyond that.
We don’t want women to feel like this is just a hot topic or a fashion statement that will go out of style. It’s important to build up that momentum not just with football but also with rugby, netball, basketball, hockey and all sports – where we have great women’s teams doing amazing things around the world.
We want women to feel that this wasn’t just done because everybody is fighting for equality and talking about the MeToo movement or having women in an equal space to men. They need to believe that for them and for their kids, their daughters, their nieces, even their nephews, women do have a space in this whole environment.
We have to be part of their story. It is a social responsibility. This is not a hot topic that people move on from; it is a journey we all must be part of. While building a tribe of equality and people who become to just love sports – regardless of it being women or men’s sport.
Off the back of the World Cup and with the growth of Women’s sports stars like combat sports stars such as Amanda Nunes and Katie Taylor, what steps can women sports take to magnify the talent of its stars and promotes their stories?
It is important that for this to happen, brands need to buy into it because they really hold the key to putting women on the same platform as men. I always say that 40 per cent of athletes are females, but they only have 7 per cent of the media coverage – how is that even possible now? At GiveMeSport Women we’re trying to take that to 50/50.
We know that there is an interest there, we know that people love watching women’s sports – just look at the fights of the Women’s World Cup, but in order for that to carry on and grow and for us to build on the talent of the stars that we have, brands need to get behind them just like they get behind the male athletes by investing time to understand why it is important to back women – brands need to have a purpose to survive in this space of women.
They can’t just show up when the bright lights are out. They need to show up all the time with a purpose.
What methods should be undertaken when it comes to ensuring those women’s sports content caters to its own audience and engages a female demographic?
At GiveMeSport, through all our research and the work that we’ve done, we specifically produce content for our female audience, but it is also important for us to engage male audiences. It’s important that we get them on board as well.
Even though things are changing, it will only get better and grow bigger if we make men part of the conversation. If we don’t engage them or engage younger audiences, we will lose them.
We are doing things to create content that really caters for the female audience, we are engaging with them through events, through social media, through newspapers such as our partnership with the Mirror and with broadcasters such as BT Sports, but also through the governing bodies of tennis, netball, basketball, and taekwondo – you name it!