The AI Advantage: Technology Driving Innovation In Women’s Sports

Vinayak Shrivastav is CEO and cofounder of VideoVerse.


In the summer of 2023, a French advertisement went viral for its innovative use of deepfake visual effects to champion women’s football and celebrate female professional athletes. Initially, the ad showcases thrilling footage of what appears to be male players demonstrating exceptional soccer kicks. However, it later unveils that the AI clips are, in fact, from women’s soccer matches. The goal? Visual effects highlight unconscious biases about the women’s game. The result? Viral fame from scores of FIFA fans.

The advertisement’s primary objective was to confront and dispel the notion that men’s soccer is inherently “superior” or “more engaging” than its female counterpart. It worked—sort of.

Despite a steady increase in viewership and general public consciousness for women’s sports globally, women’s athletics still receive disproportionately low media coverage. A March 2021 study by the University of Southern California and Purdue University found that women’s sports accounted for only 5% of total TV sports coverage even as more fans are tuning in online and in stadiums.

However, interest in women’s sports appears to be rising, and there are several key factors that are likely fueling it. Even with the lack of coverage, major global sporting events are still being exposed to wider audiences looking to take in all of the action. For example, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup broke viewership records with over 1 billion people tuning in globally. This was a 30% increase from the 2015 tournament.

Female participation rates are also growing at all levels, from youth leagues up through college. According to the NCAA, 226,212 female student-athletes participated in college sports in 2021-22, a 5% increase from 2020-21. Even when women aren’t playing, they are leading. For example, Stephanie Frappart became the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match, Ligue 1 and UEFA Champions League games.

This broadening exposure and engagement drives higher viewership and enthusiasm for women’s athletics, which is why 2024 will be a breakout year. As emerging technology brings champions into the digital space, it will help democratize one simple message—sport is sport.

AI Can Break Through Biases
Women athletes stand to benefit enormously from AI’s wave of innovation, which should help create more compelling, female-centric sports brands and garner greater mainstream appreciation of women’s sports globally. AI-driven advancements will provide deeper insights into female fans’ interests and values, enabling the development of richer, more resonant women’s sports brands. However, broadcasting and content need to be more diversified across publishing houses, as only 10% of sports editors and 11.5% of sports reporters are women.

New-Age Fan Experiences
Connecting fans using live game footage highlights across broadcast and digital is one of many ways to scale and share. Behind-the-scenes footage also helps drive sports community engagement and fandoms.

LSU women’s basketball star Angel Reese has offered up behind-the-scenes looks at the team’s jubilant locker room celebrations after big wins to her 2.6 million Instagram followers. Football legend Megan Rapinoe has successfully broken through commonplace sporting tropes and defined a new kind of sports hero that transcends boundaries and labels through a steady drumbeat of inspirational highlight videos and a flurry of authentic community reactions.

A new wave of female athletes has demonstrated substantial success on and off the field and has helped grow women’s sports. However, their intent goes beyond the playing field; most feel it’s their duty to inspire the next generation and create more opportunities for women in sports.

By breaking through barriers and partnering with major brands, the digitally savvy Alisha Lehmaan helps advance the football sport commercially while setting an aspirational example for young players. What she does exceptionally well is leverage video content that is relevant, engaging and entertaining to maximize and elevate women’s football to her 22 million followers across Instagram and TikTok. After all, a viral video can now cause an overnight boost to just about any elite female athlete—making them powerful adversaries for brands to partner with.

Empowering Female Athletes Through AI
It isn’t far off to argue that AI has the potential to transform the sports world and help address long-standing inequities. AI’s analytical capabilities will provide pivotal insights to close the persisting gaps between men’s and women’s sports in areas like viewership, media coverage and compensation.

Think about gender bias and how it influences search algorithms. While Google search results more often than not skew toward male athletes, campaigns like “Correct the Internet” are working to negate those effects by discovering living data to analyze and recognize women’s sporting events, ensuring equal coverage and promoting the achievements of trending female athletes.

The Bigger Picture
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry like sports isn’t easy, However, the industry is recognizing that women have proved themselves to be world-class athletes who bring immense talent and excitement to live events.

As promising young athletes evolve into personal brands unto themselves and women’s sports leagues look to build commercial momentum at the elite level, it’s become apparent that AI and technology are reinventing the sports social experience. This evolution is vital to brand-building for beloved female athletes and can help elevate them to the top of the match card, where they belong as equals alongside their male counterparts. It’s the next logical step in a shift that’s actually been happening for decades.
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{Author}Vinayak S., Forbes Councils Member{/Author}

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