Disney Boosts Focus on Women’s Sports With Serena Williams Documentary on ESPN+

WNBA games and a NCAA women’s basketball tournament aren’t the only tools Disney has in its arsenal to attract advertisers hoping to expand support of women’s sports

Published Time: 27.06.2024 - 18:31:28 Modified Time: 27.06.2024 - 18:31:28

WNBA games and a NCAA women’s basketball tournament aren’t the only tools Disney has in its arsenal to attract advertisers hoping to expand support of women’s sports.

Starting July 10, the entertainment giant will launch “In The Arena: Serena Williams,” a new eight-part miniseries that chronicles the tennis legend’s long career, including perspective from the subject herself as well as that from key figures in her life. The program is backed by Morgan Stanley, which serves as a presenting sponsor of the series, and TJ Maxx and Heineken, which have come on board as associate sponsors.

With its sponsorship, Morgan Stanley sees a chance to throw a bigger spotlight on women’s sports overall, says Alice Milligan, the company’s chief marketing officer. The category only gets a small investment from advertisers, she says, yet is expected to become a more than $1 billion industry, according to a recent report from Deloitte.

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The financial-services giant sees an opportunity to show itself as having “old school grit” but “new world vision,” she says, and “I can’t think of anyone more gritty or visionary than Serena herself.”

Between July 10 and August 28, Morgan Stanley will sponsor elements within the ESPN+ series, including custom vignettes and logo bugs; social posts from ESPN that appear across Instagram and Facebook; and promos for the miniseries that appear in shows such as “First Take,” “Get Up” and “SportsCenter.”

Big sports-media outlets have given the bulk of their attention to games dominated by male athletes and owners. As streaming-video disrupts the traditional economics of enterta -

inment, however, some media companies are putting a new focus on female sports, hoping that these games can draw bigger crowds – and the money that would presumably come with them. Advertisers put more than $18 million against ESPN’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament, playoffs and championship in 2022, according to Vivvix, a tracker of ad spending. Top advertisers included Nissan, Capital One and Unilever’s Degree deodorant.

GroupM, the large media-buying consortium backed by ad giant WPP, vowed earlier this year to double the amount of money its clients spend on women’s sports in 2024 and said it would seek to create a dedicated marketplace for the programming genre, starting in the industry’s next “upfront” negotiation period. The firm has already secured interest from advertisers including adidas, Ally, Coinbase, Discover, Google, Mars, Nationwide, Unilever and NBCUniversal’s Universal Pictures.

“Disney has been in this game for a long time, and we are hoping that brands are coming to help us continue the mission we have had for many years,” says Mike Denby, senior vice president of sales for Disney Advertising.

The series is directed by Gotham Chopra, co-directed by Lauren Fisher, and co-produced by ESPN, Religion of Sports, Tom Brady’s 199 Productions, and Williams and Caroline Currier’s Nine Two Six Productions.

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