Rugby champ Alphonsi tells brands to take gender out of sports marketing

Taking the gender out of women's sports marketing will help brands appeal to a wider audience, Maggie Alphonsi, the former England Rugby World Cup winner, has urged.

Panel (L-R): Richardson-Walsh, Nicholl, Alphonsi with The Telegraph's Jim White who moderated the panel
Panel (L-R): Richardson-Walsh, Nicholl, Alphonsi with The Telegraph's Jim White who moderated the panel

Highlighting the strengths of what a sport brings to athletes is what sells it, she explained during a panel discussion on women’s sport in London this morning hosted by brand experience agency MKTG.

Alphonsi said: "The minute you start to put gender on [sport] and you start marketing it as women playing rugby then you don’t give it the credit that it deserves. When you start to go, ‘we’ve got warriors, we’ve got strong athletes’, all of a sudden you increase the reach and you can appeal to more people."

Kate Richardson-Walsh, the former captain of GB and England women’s hockey, added that social media is a major tool in raising awareness of women’s sport.

She said: "Social media reach is huge [in developing women’s sport]. For women’s sport it’s been a revelation because you can tap into so many different sports and many different stories, and those are the stories that we want to get out there."

Alphonsi agreed, explaining how social media is a way of humanising the athlete and showing off their personalities. "Sometimes with women’s sport it’s like they take the character out of the individual," she said.

"We are portrayed to be very serious and sometimes what interests people are the characters and personalities and that’s what’s good about social media, you can show there’s another side to you. Women have the voice to do it and social media is a great way to show we are funny and have personalities."

Also speaking on the panel was Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, who called for marketing expertise to help raise awareness of women’s sport.