Indra Nooyi talks about engaging women through sports
"Speak to women. Do it authentically. Give them the real sports experience they want. They will respond." - Indra Nooyi PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi does not mince words when it comes to speaking in favor of women and their needs as consumers. Speaking at the recent Sports Business Journal’s Game Changers Conference, Nooyi spoke at the length of the importance of understanding, prioritizing, and engaging with the large cross-section of female consumers, emphasizing the need to shift from simply changing product colors in order to attract female customers. She tacitly referenced the prevalent sexism, which exists within sports product advertisements and brought forward the need for companies to refrain from “dumbing down” the female customer, and to treat women as “real sports fans”. Speaking to over 350 sports business professionals who were present during the conference, Nooyi presented statistics, which clearly highlighted the increase in the number of female sports fans, sportspersons and others involved in sports such as coaches. She noted that there had been an increase in the number of female fans of the annual Super Bowl of up to 34% over the past decade, and mentioned the fact that the NFL had 80 million female fans who enjoyed the game. NASCAR has 36% female fan following while 43% of women enjoy baseball. In terms of consumption, 40% of the people purchasing season tickets for games were women, while women’s expenditure on sports apparel exceeded $1.3 billion in 2012. Nooyi also brought forward the results of a 2011 survey through which 54% respondents believed that women face maximum challenges in attaining success in the sports industry as compared with other fields of work. She brought forward the need to engage with female consumers in the same manner as with male consumers, i.e. to involve the same “360 degree process” through which market research and other processes assess the needs of a consumer. She cited the example of PepsiCo’s ad for its sports drink, “Gatorade” which featured U.S. soccer player Abby Wambach. She stated, ““What’s important about this ad is not that Abby Wambach is a woman, but that she is an athlete—just like Peyton Manning or Kevin Durant. We see her talent, her drive and her ferocious competitive spirit. This ad is an acknowledgement that women have—and indeed, thrive on—these characteristics.” Referencing sports terminology, Nooyi went on to highlight the need for companies to “win the game” by involving it’s entire “team” and not just half of it, a clear indicator for products to be designed and marketed to both genders, and for them to factor in the needs of women. Indra Nooyi has been highly regarded for her commitment towards strengthening PepsiCo’s relationship with it’s female customers, and is also known to “walk the talk”; her recent inculcation of the company’s first design head indicates that the company will re-evaluate its existing repertoire of goods and services to better appeal to women consumers. With her strong sense of leadership and strong sense of fairness, women consumers from both sporting and non-sporting backgrounds can hope for products and services that are more open towards them, which is respectful of their role in and contribution towards the market.