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Ally, ESPN, ACC partnering in effort to increase coverage of women’s sports

Chris Graham
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Photo: UVA Athletics

Ally Financial Inc. is partnering with ESPN to increase coverage of women’s sports, which right now account for less than 10 percent of all sports media content.

Ally and The Walt Disney Co., the parent company of ESPN, announced on Monday a multi-year, multimillion dollar investment designed to advance equality in women’s sports coverage.

The collaboration is focused on expanding game highlights, branded content and features across the ESPN networks, including regular “SportsCenter” segments that highlight top women’s sports accomplishments.

Through the relationship, Ally will become an official sponsor of the ACC, featuring the first-ever title sponsorships of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament and ACC Women’s Soccer Championship, as well as the exclusive presenting sponsorship of the 2023 ACC Women’s Lacrosse Championship.

“For too long, women’s sports programming has been treated as an afterthought in the media buying process, perpetually giving women athletes the short end in terms of media exposure and income opportunity while limiting investment opportunities for brands. This cycle needs to change,” said Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer at Ally. “We are taking a major step forward together with Disney and the ACC to change the way women’s media is packaged, and through this barrier-breaking partnership – that channels funds directly to women’s sports and begins to level the playing field for female athletes – we hope to create the kind of systemic change needed to significantly increase visibility, opportunity and fandom in women’s sports.”

Ally approached Disney last year to create a first-of-its-kind sponsorship package to spotlight women’s sports and advance the brand’s pledge to reach 50/50 media spend across men’s and women’s sports.

“The roadblocks we kept running into are that women’s sports are generally sold as part of a men’s package or as an add-on, and with an already scarce landscape locked up through category exclusivity, it made it nearly impossible to reach our internal investment goals,” Brimmer said. “We pushed all parties involved to get creative. Disney and ESPN were willing to dig deep with us to think in fresh ways to buy women’s media directly and create opportunities where there weren’t any.”

The unprecedented package also features a collaboration with Disney’s CreativeWorks team, with the goal to build custom creative to keep gender equity and allyship top of mind for all fans. The spots will run in two exclusive “SportsCenter” episodes later this summer.

As part of the agreement, Ally Bank becomes the Official Retail Bank of the Atlantic Coast Conference, holding media branding and activation rights across all ACC Championships, with first-ever title sponsorships of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament and Women’s Soccer Championship, as well as the exclusive presenting sponsorship of the 2023 ACC Women’s Lacrosse Championship.

In early March, Ally will kick things off at the Women’s and Men’s ACC Basketball Championships at the Greensboro Coliseum with interactive fan activations and co-branded giveaways.

Ally and Disney intentionally structured the ACC Network media portion of the agreement to create opportunities for additional financial brands to join, thereby increasing investment in women’s sports.

“Disney is committed to ensuring our rich storytelling is accessible, where all viewers can see themselves represented,” said Rita Ferro, president of Disney Advertising. “For nearly three decades, we have been intentional in prioritizing and spotlighting the accomplishments and stories surrounding women’s sports. We are proud that brands like Ally are joining us as we level the playing field and help build a future where sports investments are truly equitable.”

“The ACC is thrilled to have Ally join our league as a sponsor – including their dedicated commitment to support of women’s athletics – and we look forward to this meaningful partnership,” said ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips. “We are proud of our continued commitment to gender equity and the ongoing support and advancement of women’s sports. The relationship with Ally will directly benefit our 15 member institutions, soon to be 28 sponsored sports and nearly 10,000 student-athletes. Thanks to our partners at Disney and ESPN for working aggressively to promote the ACC and creating this amazing relationship with Ally.”

Ally’s new designation as the Official Retail Bank of the ACC officially kicks off at the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament running March 1-5, 2023, in Greensboro.

The ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament is the longest-running D1 conference women’s basketball tournament in the country. Fans can watch all 14 of the tournament games on ACCN (Tuesday-Saturday) and ESPN (Sunday). In addition to the games, ACCN will be on site with live studio programming throughout the event.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].