The GIST: Saturday’s NCAA women’s gymnastics championship wasn’t just a win for Oklahoma — ABC had 922K tune in, making it the most-watched college gymnastics meet ever on ESPN networks. Talk about sticking it.
The details: This year’s championship achieved a peak audience of 1.1 million, growing 11% overall from last year’s event. Most notably, ESPN tapped further into a powerful target audience in the process — women aged 18-49, whose viewership grew 58%.
The context: Women’s gymnastics was already flying high heading into Saturday’s championship, with over 95 million impressions this year alone across ESPN’s social platforms — the most of any women’s sport. Unlike many other NCAA sports, gymnastics also benefits from having recent Olympians on the rosters.
- Auburn’s Suni Lee nabbed gold and silver medals at this year’s NCAA championships, just eight months after becoming one of the breakout stars — and the women’s all-around champion — of the Tokyo Games. Proof of her celebrity? Her 1.7 million Instagram followers.
Zooming out: Shockingly, women’s gymnastics has earned just 1.1% of name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation thus far, demonstrating that brands might be sleeping on the sport’s business potential.
- For example, a 2020 study found that the 2019–20 UCLA gymnastics team could’ve been worth $1.25 million a year in NIL deals. Time to wake up.