How Carolyn Tisch Blodgett Is Striving to Change the Game for Women's Sports The founder and CEO of sports investment firm Next 3 discusses her recent investment in the National Women's Soccer League champion Gotham Football Club and her game plan for the future of sports.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When it comes to big money and pro sports, the boys club has been running—and funding—the show for years. But where others see obstacles, Carolyn Tisch Blodgett sees opportunity. With her recent investment in reigning National Women's Soccer League champion Gotham Football Club, Tisch, the 38-year-old founder and CEO of sports investment firm Next 3, aims to level the playing field for female owners and athletes alike.
"For a long time, women's sports have not even been a part of the conversation," Tisch Blodgett told Entrepreneur.com. "We're hoping we can change that." Based on her track record, change is coming sooner rather than later. While it takes most owners years to see their team raise a championship banner, it took Tisch Blodgett about three and a half days. In early November, she closed the deal to become a minority owner of Gotham FC. That weekend, she watched her new team celebrate a championship in front of a record 25,000 fans who clearly couldn't care less about the chromosomal makeup of their triumphant team.
Starting her own sports legacy
Tisch Blodgett may be new to women's soccer, but she is no stranger to being part of a successful team. Her family has owned the New York Giants for 30 years, during which time the team has generated billions in revenue. With Next 3, she set out to find the next set of disruptive brands in sports, media, and entertainment. "Sign after sign pointed to women's soccer," Tisch Blodgett says. When selecting a team, her family's roots in the New York sports community made Gotham an obvious choice, and her professional background made her a bankable leader. Before founding Next 3, Tisch Blodgett was head of global marketing at Peloton, overseeing one of history's most successful content marketing campaigns.
"Peloton was the world's best-kept secret," she says of her early days at the company. "We had an incredible product, but nobody knew about it. It was our job as marketers to tell the world."
Tisch Blodgett believes Gotham FC is currently at a similar stage. "We have the best product on the field," she says, and raising its profile comes down to creating a community around a shared experience. She hopes to enhance the in-stadium experience by implementing technology into the ticketing and food ordering process, making it more seamless. Her goal is to give fans not only an exciting game but an unforgettable memory—every time. As word-of-mouth builds, the fanbase will swell, attracting attendees who may not have known much about women's soccer in the past.
The challenges and triumphs of women in sports
Despite her success, Tisch Blodgett knows that challenges persist for female entrepreneurs in the sports industry. "I took a class at Harvard on family businesses," she recalls. "The conclusion was essentially, 'It's nice to be the first-born son. That's who inherits the company.'"
But for the daughters, she says that the tides are slowly turning from the Succession-style primogeniture that has long been the status quo. "There is a new generation of teams being run by women," she points out. "And they are having a lot of success."
While female owners are starting to get the credit they deserve, female athletes have a long way to go. Despite record attendance, the NWSL, like all women's sports, pales in comparison to the visibility of its male counterparts. As Tisch Blodgett explains, "When you turn on your TV on a weekend afternoon, you're going to find men's sports, but it's going to be challenging to find women's sports without going out of your way." This lack of visibility and coverage has led to a massive imbalance in investments in women's sports compared to men's. According to Tisch Blodgett, a disproportionate percentage of sports investments have historically gone toward the men's game.
"For so long, the sponsorship discussion in women's sports had been considered a feel-good story," she says. "Brands thought, 'I invested in the NBA, so I should also invest in the WNBA because it's the right thing to do.'" Tisch Blodgett hopes to shift the perception around investing in women's sports away from a positive PR move towards a savvy economic one. "Investing in women's sports is more than just a way to appease your guilty conscience," she says. "It's also a way to increase your bottom line."If Tisch Blodgett is as good at getting to the goal as the players on her team, Gotham FC will hoist another championship banner in no time.