Sue Bird Sep 24, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Sue Bird, fiance of United States forward Megan Rapinoe (not pictured) looks on before the game between the United States and South Africa at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

From the NCAA women’s Final Four to the U.S. women’s national soccer team to Nebraska volleyball and beyond, women’s sports are now a legitimate force in the day to day sports conversation. Coverage is increasing and improving, while women athletes prove their financial value to Madison Avenue and Wall Street. Four-time WNBA champion and future Hall of Famer Sue Bird now works with ESPN, runs her own media company Togethxr, and is a partner and executive at Deep Blue Sports and Entertainment — and she sees significant opportunity as the volume of coverage increases.

While Bird celebrates the improvement in the overall volume of coverage centered on women’s leagues and star women athletes, she believes great content and purposeful branding still matter most.

“The good news is I see a lot of attempts to fill those holes or add coverage. There’s definitely a lot of movement. At the same time, I’m not as hung up on the number itself anymore,” Bird said in an interview on Sports Media with Richard Deitsch released Thursday. “Where my focus has now turned is the actual coverage itself. I’d rather have like one story, one doc, one podcast, one this, one that, that really gets the life of a woman athlete, really gets what’s happening in the world of women’s sports, versus 30 stories that barely cover it, that don’t really know what they’re talking about, that clearly haven’t done the homework.”

Bird noted that women’s sports makes up nearly one-fifth of sports coverage now, where in the past it struggled to top five percent. Networks and media companies are finally making women’s sports broadcasts and content more accessible to fans.

Still, Bird believes holes in coverage exist for the same reason women and people of color are marginalized in other walks of life. Bird said she never understood why media executives believed there was no audience for women’s sports, when as an athlete at UConn and with the Seattle Storm and Olympic basketball teams, she saw passionate fans everywhere she looked.

“What I’m really starting to understand is when it comes to selling … nobody has ever been incentivized to push for us,” Bird told Deitsch. “When it comes to speaking about it, talking about media, going on shows and carving out time, up until the last couple years, nobody was ever really held accountable.”

As part of an effort to create that accountability, Bird is focused more on engagement over reach.

“We as a culture in sports, fall in love with reach as opposed to engagement,” Bird said. “Men’s sports has a much larger reach, no one’s gonna argue that. But women’s sports and their fanbase … the brand loyalty on the women’s side is amazing. Fans really rock with us. We got out there and we go, ‘Put some Nike shoes on,’ they’re gonna do it.”

Women college athletes have signed surprisingly lucrative NIL deals. Stars like Sabrina Ionescu and A’ja Wilson have generated traction around signature sneakers. In media, personalities like Candace Parker and Sheryl Swoopes continue to rise.

It would appear brands and networks are realizing the potential of the women’s sports audience, and it’s growing. Bird hopes brands and media companies will tap into that fervent support rather than purely chasing numbers.

[Sports Media with Richard Deitsch]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.