Paris 2024 organisers have announced that the upcoming Olympics will be the first to feature an equal number of male and female athletes, marking a significant milestone in the pursuit of gender equality in sports. This achievement is the result of years of effort by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to create equal opportunities for athletes of all genders to compete for medals.

Despite this progress, men’s sport still dominates sponsorship deals. According to a survey conducted by Sports Innovation Lab, only about 9% of sports media and sponsorship dollars from more than 25 Fortune 500 brands were allocated to women’s sport. However, the survey also revealed that 83% of respondents plan to increase their investment in women’s sport in 2024.

“Many brands have expressed their intention to focus on the Olympics and invest more in female athletes,” said Gina Waldhorn, CMO of Sports Innovation Lab. “Each year, brands increasingly celebrate the advancements made in women’s sports, and this milestone will surely be another cause for celebration.”

The growing popularity of women’s sport could further attract sponsors in 2024, as demonstrated by the record-breaking viewership of the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The tense pre-tournament TV negotiations were eclipsed by the global success of the tournament, paving the way for increased interest from advertisers.

Conrad Wiacek, head of sport analysis at research firm GlobalData, highlighted the role of soccer in uplifting the profile of female athletes historically. He stated, “There is an opportunity for brands to develop a direct relationship with female audiences through partnerships in women’s sport—whether it’s with individual athletes or teams. And currently, these opportunities are often more cost-effective than certain men’s sports and male athletes.”

The enthusiasm surrounding women’s sports has already led to positive market responses. Brands including Adidas and Nike responded swiftly to the popularity of the Women’s World Cup this year, with their jerseys worn by Spain and England in the final. Nike even released a replica England goalkeeper’s jersey following outrage from fans, who initially couldn’t find one for Golden Glove winner Mary Earps.

Thayer Lavielle, executive vice president at The Collective, Wasserman’s women’s division, noted the benefits of working with women athletes. However, the impact of this trend in 2024 is yet to be fully determined, as campaigns are still rolling out. Nonetheless, signs are promising.

Visa, one of the longstanding Olympic sponsors, announced in November that the highest percentage of women athletes will be part of their “Team Visa” program for 2024.

Valarie Allman, an Olympic champion in women’s discus and an Asics athlete, emphasized the importance of finding authentic partnerships for women athletes. “Showing who you are and what you value makes a world of difference. It allows you to be yourself and attracts companies that are genuinely interested in providing opportunities,” she said.