Marketing of professional women's soccer in the United States through feminist theories
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Despite the success of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT), two women’s soccer leagues have quickly failed in the U.S. This doctoral dissertation examines the past and present of the marketing of professional women’s soccer in the United States emphasizing feminist themes to fulfill three objectives: (a) to critically examine the history of the marketing of women’s soccer in the United States to identify and gain a better comprehension of changes in theory and practice of marketing in women’s soccer in the U.S. over time; (b) to identify and explain the use of three feminist themes in the marketing of women’s soccer, specifically in the NWSL; and (c) to analyze the impact of these three feminist themes on the related marketing strategies used within in the NWSL in an effort to build a framework while also developing recommendations for marketing practitioners for the promotion and marketing of professional women’s soccer in the United States. The historical analysis segment revealed that the failure of the first two professional women’s soccer leagues in the United States were largely a result of poor resource allocation and an inability to connect with and retain fans, the media, and sponsors. The Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) burned through capital at an unsustainable rate and was unable to maintain the excitement of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, leading to microscopic television ratings and perennially falling attendance. The second professional league, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) struggled through a disadvantageous television deal and could not overcome missteps in ownership and a lack of leadership from the league. Interviews with officials from teams in the third professional women’s league, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) revealed the evolution of professional women’s soccer marketing based on feminist themes as well as the impact of those themes on general marketing practices. The findings revealed a continued inequity of resources, softening attitudes towards the LGBT community, and the construction of a consumption community based on ideals of heteronormative femininity. Issues were raised on how teams compensated for an inequity of resources through social media, expanded target markets, and a pursuit of different revenue streams. Extensive discussions are focused on seeking viable solutions to promote professional women’s soccer.
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