A Deeper Dive Into Women in Sports

On this Shapers of Possibility - a Taylor Podcast, AnnaRose Rubright is joined by Berkley Cohn, Taylor’s Senior Account Executive and Yvette Signore, Taylor’s Strategist. These three women discuss their love for sports, the challenges they overcome in this male-dominated sports industry and the inequalities and injustices female athletes face. Take a listen to their dynamic conversation on increasing visibility of female athletes in the media.

Show full transcript
Hide transcript

Intro (00:00): Hey you, welcome to Shapers of Possibility - a Taylor Podcast, where we discuss and dissect the integrated worlds of marketing, innovation, pop culture, sports, and all of the possibilities in between.

We’re creating a unique space - for purpose, insightful debate, and growth. Join us.

AnnaRose Rubright (00:25): Hello and welcome to Shapers of Possibility - a Taylor Podcast. I am AnnaRose Rubright. Today we are talking about women in sports, what it's like to be a sports fan, who is a woman, how sports can be inclusive, and how it informs our work. We are joined by Yvette Signore, Taylor strategist, and Berkeley Cohen Taylor's senior account executive. Welcome, Ken, you tell us about yourselves.

Yvette Signore  (01:04): Hi. As AnnaRose said, my name is Yvette Signore and I'm a strategist here at Taylor. This August will be my third year coming up. Boy, it is time fly and I am an avid, avid sports fan. I love to follow football and soccer, but of course I follow other sports as well and am super appreciative that I can have co-ed sports.

Berkeley Cohen (01:24): Hi, I'm Berkeley Cohen. I'm a senior account executive here at Taylor. This will be, I guess, coming up on my fourth year. I think I've kind of lost track of time a little bit and I have always had a passion for sports and I've worked across a lot of Taylor's sports campaigns. So excited to talk to you both today about some of our experiences.

AnnaRose Rubright (01:44): That's great and thanks. Also, sports are my passion. I have always been a sports nut. When I was little, my parents would find me watching anything related to sports on tv. One time when I was like five, they found me in a den watching bowling. When I was growing up, math was hard for me, but I knew that 21 was more than 17, but it came to the score of the Eagle game the day before, and 41 is always more than 33. The Eagles beat the New England Patriots 41 to 33 in the Super Bowl of 52. I love to watch sports, I love to talk about sports. How has sports impacted your life growing up and how does it impact your life now?

Berkeley Cohen (02:43): How sports have had a huge impact on my life. I grew up a Carolina basketball fan and a Florida football fan, courtesy of my parents from a really young age. I've played I think every sport imaginable, but the only one that really stuck with me was volleyball. I started playing in middle school and then played competitively year round all throughout high school. I did know though that it probably wasn't going to take me to college as an athlete. However, my love of sports definitely drove me to then pursue a career in sports. So I received my bachelor's in sports business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a minor in sports entrepreneurship. And throughout my time in college and high school, I had summer internships and worked summer programs with the Miami Dolphins with a sports facility in Atlanta doing marketing for them. So throughout my time in college, I really started to see it as a career path for me. And I started to see sports beyond just being a hobby or something that I was a fan of, it was a job and sports business was something that I knew I wanted to pursue for the rest of my career.

Yvette Signore (03:50): Similar to Berkeley, sports have always been a part of my life. I'm sure I was put in Dallas Cowboys gear since the moment I was born, but really my passion for sports ignited with soccer and that 99 US women's national team, Mia Ham, Julie Foudy, Brandy Chastain, I always looked up to them and they were such big role models for me. So I went on to play soccer competitively for about 12 years until my ankles decided to give out. But aside from that, I've been such an avid fan of the NFL, specifically the Dallas Cowboys and a huge fan of Fay and Manning. And my parents always told me when it came to my career, do something that you truly love so it doesn't seem like work. So when I went to Mars College, I studied sports communication and broadcast journalism. Four years later, graduated and ended up at Taylor's strategy and have been so fortunate to work across incredible N F L and soccer campaigns with p and g, with Panini and a couple of others. So yeah, it's been a huge part of my life, always will be.

AnnaRose Rubright (04:49): I had a softball coach in third grade tell my parents that I should not play in this one game because I might get hurt by the other team. He really didn't want me there because he thought I was not good and wanted to win the game. I played the game anyway. We lost 26 to two. I drove in one run with a walk and scored the other one the next year. My new team beat his team in the playoffs. That was great. I joined the Special Olympics New Jersey basketball team with my best friend Lauren, who also had Dallas syndrome. We love to play basketball but couldn't keep up with the township teams. The Special Olympics has been great for me. I did basketball, swimming, unified basketball and soccer and was selected to be on the New York Rebels in the invite team twice. That led to me meeting with the US Women's National Soccer Team and being on a float in the Secretary Parade Broadway in New York City after the 2015 FIFA World Cup Victory. Berkeley, you have a bachelor's degree in sports business and minor in sports entrepreneurship. Did you face barriers as a woman pursuing sports as an education path throughout high school or college?

Berkeley Cohen (06:39): Yeah I don't think I really thought of it as a barrier at the time, but looking back, I worked for UNCs football program and I worked in recruiting and at the time I really thought I wanted to go into college athletics and college recruiting as my career. And I worked for UNCs football program for three years doing administrative work in the office. And then I also worked game days every game. So we had to be there four hours before a game to do a recruiting program with 50 to a hundred recruits. And looking back when I described my job, it sounds very legitimate, but we were actually called Blues Girls. That was our job title. So when people asked me, and it was all a group of women, when people would ask me what do I do for the football team, I would say, oh, I'm working in recruiting.

(07:22): I'm a blues girl. And people would be like, oh, you're just a blues girl. And for the longest time I was 19. That was my job title, that was the title that was given to me. I had that on my resume that I was a blues girl rather than a college recruiting intern or working for Carolina's College football recruiting department. My job title was my gender. And again, it's very common that large state schools or their athletics programs, especially their men's athletics programs, will have groups of women that work in recruiting that work these recruiting programs. And I have no idea if it's still the case there anymore, but looking back, I think that it kind of devalued the work that I was doing to give me that title of a Blues Girl rather than a title that related to the work that I was actually doing in the recruiting department. So I don't necessarily think I saw it as a barrier, and I've definitely learned to position it better than I did at the time, but it is just something that strikes me now older looking back that was a little odd. That wasn't standard. That's not how they referred to the football team assistants, the basketball team assistants. That's kind of like, why did we have to be called Blues Girls? Why couldn't we just be called what we were? Which is a recruiting assistant.

AnnaRose Rubright (08:35): Yvette, can you think of an opportunity that you got because you played sports like a scholarship or my ticket Take Parade example or even a great friend or memory you have because of sports?

Yvette Signore (08:55): Well, my talents were not blessed enough for a scholarship, but really to your point, the friends component is so important in that community that you build within sports. Not only growing up when I was a part of sports teams, but also the network that I've created just working within sports. From my colleagues at Taylor, I've been fortunate to be a part of a broadcasting bootcamp with the Giants, part of Laura Oakmans camp that she does called Galvanize. I still connect with many of those women today and they become dear friends of mine. And that's just one example of a network and also just people that you interact with within your fan base. I think there's something so interesting about that energy and that bond that you create with complete strangers, but you have that shared interest of your team, whether you're in the city and you're looking up sports bars to go to that are specific to your team and that's how you can meet people and just examples like that.

(09:51): I think that that community really is so important and especially at work, I think what makes working in sports so cool is that you're working with other sports fans. So your team, you're creating campaigns and ideating things for essentially yourself. We know collectively what we want to consume as sports fans and that community that we have at Taylor is so awesome and it's just so badass to see how our brainstorms become ideas and how they're all executed and just see how everything comes to life. That community is so, so important and such a vital ingredient to really creating the work that we do.

Berkeley Cohen (10:30): I agree. Actually jumping in here, I think speaking on my work at the Carolina Recruiting Department as a blues girl, the women that I worked alongside, we all use that as a stepping stone in our career. And for the most part, the majority of the women I work with are now killing it in the sports industry. And I see them on Instagram, whether they're working for their own college sports departments that they've now moved on to work for or I have one of the girls I worked with, she works for the WNBA and I ran into her on the street in New York walking to get lunch one day and we just caught up quickly. So I feel like it definitely has created such a network for me too, of just women who hype each other up too. Whether I talk to them daily or whether I just see what they're doing on Instagram, it's a bonding source for us and I think it will continue to be for the rest of our lives.

Yvette Signore (11:17): And I think that's a really important point as well. Just the community of women in sports, kind of like the aforementioned point. We know that there's barriers that exist for female athletes and for women who work in sports and we kind of all huddle together to really support each other knowing, hey, there's people or forces of nature just against us. And over the times it hasn't been the best environment and while times are changing, it still is rough. So that network of women in sports is so important. And I know I keep in close contact with all the women in sports that I've worked with, whether it's at Taylor, whether it's at the Atlanta Falcons, when I interned in college, some of the women that I worked with have been a huge part of who I am today. And I think that network is so important. Just I can speak, I know for everyone that I work with as well,

AnnaRose Rubright (12:07): Women who play professional sports don't make the same money as men do, but the US women's national team has more fans than the men's team does, and they dominate the sport. Well, the men's team didn't even make it to the World Cup competition last time.

(12:32): We don't see women sports as much on tv and women are not treated the same by Emilia either. In my home township back, there was nobody that looked like me and Lauren, but everybody can love sports. You don't need to be a boy or a man. You can even have a disability. You can just like the competition in the entertainment of sports . It's important that everybody is included so that young people see someone like them on day one to join. How are women athletes portrayed in the media and what kind of questions are they asked?

Berkeley Cohen (13:26): I think it's interesting. We've obviously done a lot of work with women in sports. There's some of our work with Secret and a lot of the times when we have women athletes that we're working with and we have talent that we're working with, if we're booking media time with them, the majority of time we're looking at lifestyle media because people are way more interested in their personal lives in what they're doing outside of sports. I think they're a top five women athletes that everyone knows and they all have brands that they're building beyond what they're doing on the field, which is incredible to begin with. But it's unfortunate to see that for the most part, these women are all still playing and they're still very active in their sport. But the questions that they're being asked, unless it's like a beat writer that specifically covers women's sports or women's tennis or women's soccer, for the most part, they're being asked questions about their dating life, about their family, about their children, which is all very important, but it's, it's not their job, it's not their career. And I would love to see the media pay more attention to what they're doing on the field as equally as they pay attention to who they're dating off the field.

Yvette Signore (14:30): And over the years, of course it's gotten significantly better. I just remember being a girl and a lot of female athletes tend to put in a oversexualized light, totally not even about the sport, but I used to see people talk about Maria Sharapova in a certain way or even certain super commercials were very sexualized. And growing up I used to think, well, what value does that put on women in the sports category or even female fans themselves? What are we looking up to? And of course, as I mentioned before, things have gotten better, but also to Berkeley's 0.2, now it's transformed into something else where certain lifestyle magazines are the only ones that will want to talk to our female athletes or everything is kind of centered around them as a mother, which of course is incredible, but doesn't always highlight their accolades. For example, Serena Williams, there's so much conversation about how she hasn't won a Grand Slam title since she had her child.

(15:33): And the fact that she's even playing at the level that she is now and has maintained such a high ranking through the years consistently is so incredible. And how come that's not the conversation? And then another thing out there is that sometimes the media doesn't want to highlight external things to motherhood or even their sports accolades such as the activism that's done off the court. There's this concept that exists today of Shut Up and Dribble where some people, and even some media outlets aren't comfortable with athletes talking about their off the field activism. Meanwhile, they're people who have every right to be a part of that conversation. And I think that is a huge issue today that people don't allow these athletes to go outside of their box. And fortunately, there are those that do want to uplift those conversations and do want to uplift those athletes. Just recently together is a, it's a new media platform founded by Sue Bird, Alex Morgan and others. And essentially one of their goals is A, to increase coverage of women's sports, but B, to also ensure that women aren't just put in this box, that they're not this monolith. So they're athletes and mothers too, but they're also activists, they're also entrepreneurs and there's so much more to them. So it's good to see that there's all signs pointing up, but there's definitely a lot of work that needs to be done.

Berkeley Cohen (16:56): I agree. I think also talking about motherhood, it was, I think the craziest thing for me when we worked with the National Women's Soccer League players for Secret most recently is that a lot of them are mothers. And a lot of the conversations in the media were around the fact that the National Women's Soccer League commissioner, Lisa Baird, was providing childcare for all of the mothers who are going to be in quarantine in the bubble when they were playing during their tournament throughout Covid. And it's interesting because you never really saw that conversation with the media for the men's leagues. You really only saw them talking about the men returning to play, and you also didn't see them talk about the fact that the women were the first to do it. So it's like not only were they not covering it when they did cover it, they were talking about childcare. So it's very interesting to see, and again, I think it, it's incredible if these women are not only able to play professional sports, but also to do it as mothers. But I do think that they should be more focused on what they're doing on the field too.

Yvette Signore (17:51): And I just remember when we were deep in the beginning of the pandemic, as Berkeley was saying, the National Women's Soccer League, they were the first team sport to return in the United States, however, I would turn on ESPN and they were only talking about NBA about NFL, which was light years away at the time. And other men's sports. And of course those sports are interesting and I'm a fan of those sports as well, but how are you not going to talk about a tournament that's returning A so soon and B, the first in the pandemic? And it wasn't just us who was noticing it of course, because it's our job to really monitor these types of conversations. But just on social media too, you could see the outrage of fans watching ESPN and other channels and outlets, how come they aren't covering these women? The media just tends to diminish these women, and that's a huge problem in itself.

AnnaRose Rubright (18:48): Can you tell us more about sports marketing campaigns you've worked on and your role in the campaign?

Yvette Signore  (18:58): Yeah, of course. One of my favorite sports campaigns that I've been a part of was the 2020 NFL draft. Of course, we all had high hopes of going to Las Vegas for this draft, and unfortunately we were hit with a global pandemic, which of course was really a big hindrance to our plans. But I think what made it really, really special was that it was so incredible to see how our team totally adapted to something so unprecedented and was able to make a campaign go completely digital. If you're familiar with some of our work with p and g at the draft, typically, of course we do something on social media, but we do a lot of on the site activations. So this was the first year that we went completely digital really because we had to. And I thought it was really incredible that we were able to preserve such a sacred tradition of the draft, which was the red carpet every year. These NFL athletes come sporting their best suits and in some incredible patterns and colors and walk down that red carpet.

(20:01): And it's really become such a big part of the draft as we've seen that fashion and sports have really intertwined over the last years. And we were able to, as I mentioned, preserve that tradition and kind of bring that red carpet home to them. And we made these players their own directors and they were their own camera cameramen and they really created that content themselves. And even though it was still at home and not Las Vegas, it was really special to preserve that moment for them. And also, might I add that we are up for three A and a Reggies for that work?

Berkeley Cohen (20:35): Very exciting. Two years ago I was on the ground with Olay for their MakeSpace for Women Super Bowl commercial, which was also calling attention to making space for women, not only NFL fans within the NFL space, but making space for women in stem. So literally making space for women. So that was awesome to work on. And we worked with really cool talent with Busy Phillips and I was able to be on the ground at the Super Bowl with them on Radio Row, which is just always a thrilling experience. But this past year, due to the Pandemic, we also did a virtual campaign for Super Bowl, and we weren't on the ground for that either similar to draft, but it was our first TikTok campaign with p and g, which was awesome. We created a branded filter with TikTok and we wanted everyone to get on the fun. Obviously the Super Bowl looked a lot different for most people this year, viewing small watch parties safely from home, but that doesn't mean you can't get in on the fun. And so everyone was able to share their TikTok game day picks using this or that challenge that went absolutely viral on TikTok, which is really fun to bring those insights to the table and craft a campaign around something that had already gone viral and that we were really leaning into both as a brand and as a sports entity.

Yvette Signore (21:46): And honestly, just hearing your response, I have to give such a huge shout out to Taylor strategy because they're giving women like us these incredible opportunities. I mean, Berks has been a part of so many Super Bowls and so many drafts and what was so surreal for me graduating college and being on the ground in Nashville for the draft and being a part of other campaigns. So I would really love to shout out Taylor's strategy for giving us and our other female colleagues these opportunities to work with sports, not only just giving us these opportunities, but trusting us with these insights and trusting us with the brainstorms and all of the work that we dedicate for their client partners.

Berkeley Cohen (22:28): Totally piggybacking off of that, I have to give Yvette a specific shout out. As a strategist, bringing some of these insights to the table, Yvette brought us the insight that only 4% of sports media coverage is dedicated to women's sports. And that really kicked off our entire campaign and led us to a ton of opportunities with Secret and the National Women's Soccer League last year. So I totally agree. I think when I look back on my career and I say things out loud that I've worked on, I am blown away by the opportunities that I've been given and by the campaigns I've been able to work on and the people I've been able to meet and the events I've been able to attend and staff, there really is kind of a dream come true.

AnnaRose Rubright (23:11): I have one more and final question before we end this. What changes would you like to see in the sports marketing landscape over the next several years?

Yvette Signore (23:25): I think a really interesting point that was brought up in last year's ESPNW summit was that brands need to start creating programs for female fans. We know that nearly half of N F L fans are women, however, how many campaigns are we seeing that are specific to female N F L fans? The only one that I can honestly think of is secret deodorant and some of the campaigns that they've created. And while of course women can be a part of the campaigns that exist today that are really made for men and women, how come brands aren't really capitalizing on the fact that hey, nearly 50% of the fans are women. Why don't we create programs that are specifically for female fans? We have just as much passion, and I think that's really important to see across all professional sports leagues. So that's the one thing that I'd really like to change, see change over the years. And I'd love to see brands join Secret. I feel like we always kind of bring it back to Secret De and of course one of our partners that we have done so much work for, but they really are on the forefront for women. We'd really love to see a lot more brands get involved.

Berkeley Cohen  (24:37): Yeah, I totally agree. I think something also is that a lot of the campaigns that we're doing in women's sports are positioned as a women in sports campaign. And obviously we're nowhere near this ever happening yet, but I would love to get to a point where partnering with the National Women's Soccer League, partnering with those women is not seen as a women's sports campaign. It's seen as a sports campaign because that's what it is. I think if you partner with a men's league, it's a sports campaign, so if you partner with a Women's league, it should be the same. And obviously positioning it as a women in sports campaign and really highlighting the impact that stuff like that is really important right now. But to me, the goal would be to eventually not have to do that anymore because it would just be, of course, it's a sports campaign.

(25:15): Women are not, it's a sports campaign. I think one of the biggest things there is really highlighting and partnering with these women athletes who aren't necessarily making headlines. It's a recent campaign with the National Women's Soccer League. I was dealing with these women directly. They don't have agents, they don't have teams. And meanwhile, for some of our NFL draft campaigns, I'm working with football players who haven't played a minute of professional sports, and they have publicists, they have agents, they have managers, they have whole teams behind them and that are helping guide them, that are helping guide them. And these women who are killing it and have been killing it for years and are so well known within their sports, I'm getting direct phone calls from them at night to ask questions about billing and invoices. So that kind of struck me as this is something that needs to change. We need to increase the visibility to these women beyond the top five to 10 that we know. We need to really start highlighting all of these women who are contributing to these teams.

Yvette Signore (26:09): And that also kind of pops another idea in my head. I think brands need to start partnering with female sports aside from the ones that we typically see, like gymnastics, soccer, tennis, sports like that. And of course we should continue supporting athletes of those sports, but there's so many others as well. We have swimming, we have wrestling, track and field, et cetera. There are so many other female sports out there, and they really don't get that limelight. They don't get that recognition, and we do have to highlight them as well.

Berkeley Cohen (26:41): Yeah, absolutely. I think women probably get the most attention in college as college athletes and then they're obviously really heroes as Olympians, but there's a level in between which is just being a professional athlete. And for some reason it seems like there's a gap there for the majority of women who make it past college but aren't necessarily making it onto the Olympic team. They're still professional athletes and they're still winning championships within their leagues, whether it's soccer, swimming, tennis, but it's still their career.

AnnaRose Rubright (27:10): I want to say thank you Berkeley and Yvette for joining me today. It was a pleasure speaking with you both.

Yvette Signore (27:18): Yeah, it was a pleasure speaking with you as well, and I'm really glad we can have these types of conversations to hopefully one day change the way that female sports landscape.

Berkeley Cohen (27:27): Thank you both so much. It's an honor earth beside you guys.

Outro (27:30): Well, that wraps up this episode of Shapers of Possibility—a Taylor Podcast. To learn more about what we do at Taylor, you can find us at TaylorStrategy.com.

Looking for more episodes of the podcast? Find us wherever you stream stuff—we’re on iTunes and other major streaming platforms. And be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter: at Taylor Strategy. Thanks for stopping by and tuning in. Peace.

Get the full report

Thank you! You can now download the document.
Download PDF
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Download PDFDownload PDF
PDF Viewer