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Development of professional leagues | The assumed difference of women’s sport

Development of professional leagues | The assumed difference of women’s sport
Development of professional leagues | The assumed difference of women’s sport

The craze for women’s professional sport is not a passing fad. The emergence of this industry in North America is not “a moment in time” either. Rather, it is “a movement” that will not stop.


Published at 12:00 p.m.

Isabèle Chevalier does not budge. With the Professional Women’s Hockey League (LPHF) and the Northern Super League (SLN), a new Canadian soccer circuit which will begin its activities in 2025, “there is a page of history being written”, a “direction who gets it.”

The businesswoman, who is notably a co-founder and investor in the Montreal SLN franchise, participated Thursday in a panel organized by CF Montreal as part of its Women’s Soccer Week. Marie-Christine Boucher, director of business and operations for the LPHF Montreal team, and Marie-Anik L’Allier, well-known public relations specialist in Canadian and Quebec sport, also participated in the discussion.

The title on the invitation, in itself, demonstrated a paradigm shift: “The economic opportunities of women’s sport. » In hockey, for example, this conversation would have seemed out of step two, five or ten years ago, when poorly paid players were playing in neighborhood arenas.

The LPHF took advantage of the fact that “all the stars were aligned,” said Marie-Christine Boucher to describe the tremendous success the league experienced in its first season of existence. However, it would be simplistic to conclude that it was a stroke of luck.

Because what the circuit has succeeded – and what the SLN will want to reproduce – is to have found its audience, but above all to have invested the necessary resources to get there.

We did not try to empty the Bell Center to fill the Verdun auditorium. The women’s hockey audience was particularly “coveted” because they were not the “traditional” audience of professional sport, explained M.me Butcher. “Generations Y and Z, from various backgrounds, and also a lot of families,” she explained. This is the exact representation of what we saw in Verdun and at Place Bell in Laval. »

In soccer, next year, “I think the fans will be a lot like those in hockey,” predicted Mme Knight.

The SLN wants to fill a void with a public that has “no product” to eat. Like the LPHF, the league will itself ensure the television production of its matches, which will then be broadcast by broadcasters.

“Out of sight, out of mind: we need visibility,” continued the entrepreneur.

“Breaking the codes”

Launched, Isabèle Chevalier insisted: marketing women’s sport does not mean reproducing step by step what has been done for men.

The consumer is different. You have to approach it differently. It’s time to break the codes.

Isabèle Chevalier, co-founder and investor of the Montreal SLN franchise, on the women’s sports market

In this sense, broadcasting matches on YouTube has created a precedent, believes Marie-Christine Boucher. The LPHF channel has some 113,000 subscribers. During the meetings, live comments numbered in the hundreds.

There was also a lot of emphasis on the athletes themselves. These “are often very available”, says Isabèle Chevalier.

The goal is not necessarily to make them superstars, but to present them as models. “Not just role modelsbut real models », Specified the businesswoman. In short, put forward real people, with whom the public can identify.

Marie-Anik L’Allier can attest to the effectiveness of this strategy. For years, she has represented Olympic athletes and has primarily tried to “highlight their personality”, without regard to their performance at the Games.

“We don’t want to bet everything on a medal, because if there is no medal, everything collapses,” she illustrates. The results don’t bother me. »

A world champion without charisma, I can’t do anything with that. But a person who is inspiring by his failures and his victories can be made a model. With young people, it’s really the richest approach.

Marie-Anik L’Allier, public relations specialist

The Montreal LPHF team was able to attest to this. At the start of the season, four players were designated to sign autographs after matches; quickly, we had to send eight teammates as reinforcements “because the demand was too great”.

“It’s an aspect that defines us and that will remain over time,” believes the manager.

The response on social media was also spectacular. In its first season, the league and its clubs generated more than 300 million impressions – the number of times users are exposed to content. And this, in a league of six teams which did not exist at this time last year. The figure provoked applause in the room.

Industry

The growth of women’s professional sport is thus closely linked to meeting its audience. But the development of the industry as such is not left out. An industry that creates jobs on the ice or on the field, but also behind the bench and on the administrative level.

The moderator of the discussion, Émilie Duquette, asked whether the new Montreal organizations attracted mainly male or female workers.

” Both ! exclaimed Isabèle Chevalier. The enthusiasm can be seen in the CVs we receive. That shows how well it works. »

Without a target having been set in this sense, the staff of the LPHF Montreal team is “equal”, underlined Marie-Christine Boucher. She also mentioned that in the business world, almost all female business leaders had played sports in their youth.

We therefore understand that the promotion of athletes leads to the promotion of a succession of decision-makers at the head of organizations. It took a while for the wheel to get going, but it’s turning nicely.

And seeing the young players from the CF Montreal Academy gathering around Isabèle Chevalier after the conference, the movement is not about to run out of steam.

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