Advertising and marketing firm Deep Blue plans to make waves with women’s sports focus

Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment founder and CEO Laura Correnti and team rang the New York Stock Exchange Closing Bell on Feb. 5 in honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.Courtesy of NYSE Group

If you want to talk women’s sports, where do you go?

For advertising executive Laura Correnti, the logical answer was Las Vegas during Super Bowl Week. Knowing the number of brand partners that would attend, she thought there was no better place to convene a conversation around the explosive growth in women’s sports. She also thought Super Bowl Week presented an ideal opportunity to introduce Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment to the world.

Deep Blue officially launched in December as an advertising and marketing firm focused on women’s sports with Correnti as founder and CEO. Its mission: bring more commercial investment to the women’s sports space by challenging existing models and creating new opportunities. In Las Vegas, Deep Blue teamed with Ally for a panel discussion on brand investment that featured front office personnel and players from the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.

Correnti said her conversations during Super Bowl Week focused on Deep Blue and its partners “sidestepping the playbook that wasn’t designed for women’s sports and creating the one that we know it needs.”

That has to happen. Now. On a global scale. In every corner of the sports and entertainment industry.

Women’s sports continue to have what you might call a “Crash Test Dummy Problem.” For decades, crash test dummies represented only the average male body. That put female drivers at risk of more serious injuries from accidents. Right now, in all areas of sports business, decision-makers use models calibrated to men’s sports. The vast majority of the systems, the metrics, the infrastructure, the research and the storytelling aim to support, promote and successfully position men’s sports and male athletes.

To illustrate what that means for media buyers such as her, Correnti posed a hypothetical: You have $1 to spend in the marketplace and a choice between “Sunday Night Football” and the WNBA playoffs. Given that most of the media buyers for brands get tasked with driving reach and finding efficiencies, “Sunday Night Football” becomes the choice that’s easiest to justify.

But what if there was an option to do both? Or what if you looked at the choice as a brand engagement play? What if you framed it in terms of the lifetime value of a customer? Leading Deep Blue, Correnti plans to ask and answer questions such as these.

“It’s really about challenging and transforming the models, but not for the sake of challenging and transforming,” said Correnti, who remains a partner at the advertising agency Giant Spoon as she leads Deep Blue. “It’s to get an adequate representation of what the product delivers on. You cannot evaluate women’s sports in a media mix the same way you evaluate men’s sports. We’re talking about very different distribution models, very different stages of the life cycle.”

That speaks to a bigger role for Deep Blue: pushing, not just convening, the conversation.

Too often business conversations around women’s sports get bogged down with one question: Why invest? The back-and-forth focuses on making the business case and leaves little time for leaders to ask other, equally important questions: How can we better capture and communicate the value of women’s sports? How can we develop and implement new models, new metrics and new stories?

At this stage in the growth and evolution of women’s sports, it’s important to devote time and money to both the “why” and the “how.” It’s thrilling to see Deloitte predict elite women’s sports will generate global revenues of $1.28 billion this year. That’s a lot of “why” right there. The “how” looks to the longer-term future, encouraging rigorous examination of the way decisions get made and identifying what should change. That examination keeps women’s sports moving forward.

Correnti places a lot of value on continually moving forward. The name Deep Blue reflects that. Deep Blue is the largest recorded shark in the world and it is female. “Sharks are always moving, and they’re always swimming forward,” said Correnti. “That is really what this work requires.” Correnti believes it also requires a firm that operates as a separate entity.

“If we were going to have the ability to make an impact, I felt adamantly that this needed its own identity,” said Correnti. “We needed to send a signal to the marketplace that we’re not looking at this as a nice-to-have. We’re looking at this as a growth market and asset class that can stand on its own.”

The Deep Blue team will put the agency expertise and financial investment of Giant Spoon to good use alongside the experiences and storytelling power of pro athletes. In January, Sue Bird signed on as a partner and chief strategy officer. Deep Blue also created an advisory council and recruited active and retired pro athletes to join. To provide global strategy insights, Deep Blue recently started an international affiliate network. Legendary former Australian cricketer Mel Jones is on board.

Deep Blue’s business plan stretches through LA 2028 and outlines a path from agency services and thought leadership to brand-supported content to venture capital and M&A deals. The guiding philosophy: Be prepared to leverage different kinds of expertise, to adapt and evolve as women’s sports evolve. “In the future, who’s to say Deep Blue couldn’t own a sports team?” said Correnti.

That kind of ambition alone makes Deep Blue a firm to watch. It also positions Deep Blue as a new model in women’s sports. The first of many, if the firm has its way.

Shira Springer writes about the intersection of sports and culture and teaches leadership communication at MIT Sloan.


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