There’s a growing fan force driving revenues in the National Football League — and it’s female. The NFL fan base is already 43 percent female, and to drive the frenzy further, teams around the league have welcomed women with open arms, offering both classroom sessions and on-field practice camps.
It's called Football 201, and the New York Giants opened its one-day camp last week. The program for 300 women sold out in just a few days.
“We absolutely love the Giants,” said fan Terri Givens. “And just the experience of being able to be out there on the field, especially on this turf, and being able to meet the players and play with them and just laugh and learn the drills and techniques and just run through everything with them is so fun.”
From Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands to Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions, to the Chargers’ Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego and throughout the NFL, women are becoming super-fans at football camps like these.
That excitement is helping the NFL score on more fronts than selling tickets for game day. Camps have become a marketing touchdown, said Marc Ganis at Sportscorp Marketing.
“Most NFL stadiums are sold out and will be sold out for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Where it really has its impact are on TV ratings.”
Talk about kicking up the viewership: Female audience has seen double digit growth over the last decade — from 32 percent in 1993 to 43 percent by 2002.
Merchandising is the other big score with more women in the game.
“It also drives product sales, drives involvement with other NFL events and other products we offer in the marketplace,” said Marjorie Rodgers, the NFL’s director of brand marketing.
Football widows started huddling up 30 years ago to participate and learn the game. They first gathered in the 70’s in San Diego, and their involvement has exploded across the league since then. The third camp recently held by the Giants was another sell-out.
Emily Vail and her mother Bobby returned for their second camp together.
“It’s definitely put a new dynamic on football — not only for the men but for the women as well,” said Alison Stangeby with the Giants community relations department. “Guys love to hear that their wives, girlfriends are coming to this event, being educated. They are jealous.”
Giants backup quarterback Jesse Palmer certainly backs that up. In fact, he says, the players are impressed.
“You’d be surprised how many times guys come out of the locker rooms after games and women are coming up asking, ‘Hey, what were you thinking on that play action pass when you were rolling out to the right? ... That was a cover two.’ [a type of pass coverage] And you’re thinking to yourself, ‘My dad doesn’t even know about that.’ So it’s really impressive.”
As one NFL vice president put it: “These days the proverbial 12th man is very likely to be a woman.”